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Issues of Internal Migration in India

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Categories: Geography: Mapping India, Published: 16th Mar, 2023

There are many economic, social and physical reasons why people emigrate and they can usually be classified into push and pull factors. However, the migration in recent times has been observed due to geographical reasons largely due to Natural Disasters like floods, Cyclones, Landslides, Earthquakes and drought. These reasons are increasing with time and are expected to be one of the major reasons in the near future for both internal and external migration across the world. 

So, let us examine a few events its causes and impacts on India of internal migration due to geographical reason.

What does Internal Migration mean?

  • The International Organization for Migration defines a migrant as “any person who is moving or has moved across an international border or within a state away from his/her habitual place of residence.”
  • Examining the migration shifts in scale, direction, demography and frequency can lead to effective policies, programmes and operational responses on the ground.
  • Internal migration is “the movement of people between usual residences within national states. “

Statistics for Migration:

  • India has the highest level of disaster displacement in South Asia in absolute terms and one of the World’s highest. 
  • Around 3.6 million people a year were displaced between 2008 and 2019, most during monsoons.
  • A recent study by Action Aid and Climate Action Network South Asia projects that even if the global community acts on their greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation pledges and targets, about 37.5 million people will still be displaced by 2030 and an estimated 62.9 million by 2050 within the five South Asian countries.
  •  India alone will see 45 million people being forced to migrate from their homes by 2050 due to climate disasters, three times more than the present figures. 

Reasons of Migration:

Migration can be ‘voluntary’ or ‘forced’.

  • For Geographical migration:
    • Unavailability of resources for livelihood: The geographical migration leads to unavailability of source for livelihood in the destination places and leads to poverty and Unemployment. 
    • Life uncertainty: The Natural disasters like cyclones and earthquakes make human life uncertain in those prone regions. 
    • For example, in coastal districts of Odhisha many people have to displace from their original place of residence due to calamity of nature.
    • In Assam every year, the havoc by floods caused is seen as one of the major reasons of internal migration causing local people devoid of basic opportunities.
    • Lack of state intervention: Governments of both states and centre gives less attention to these issues arising from internal migration which has led to decline people’s standard of living and sustainable development of a region. 
    • Environmental cost of human interference: The on-going environmental crisis is further detoriating the conditions for humans populations both geographically and economically.
    • Some of the socio-economic event includes increasing heat in the climate, thus changing the cropping pattern and leading to food insecurity.

Recent events of Geographical migration in India:

  • The Joshimath landslide:     
    • Joshimath, the ancient Uttarakhand town has become a cause of concern. 
    • Though the town of Joshimath has been witnessing cracks emerging for the past two decades, things have escalated over the last few days.
    • The geography of entire state of Uttarakhand is fragile. And, Joshimath in particular is situated on old land deposits.
    • So, there is always a risk of landslide in Joshimath. Due to this, every year, people of Joshimath notice cracks in their buildings and fields.
    • Hence, the people who are native to the region and are dependent on the region for their livelihood has to shift from there to some other place permanently.
  • Shfiting population of Sunderban Islands: 
    • The Sundarbans landscape is witnessing higher than the global average of sea-level rise, leading to accelerated land erosion.
    • Due to this government is planning to shift the people to safer places leading to migration over one region to another and thus overpowering the migration issues.
  • Cyclone Bulbul in West Bengal:
    • The impact was even greater more widespread when cyclone Bulbul struck in 2019
    • According to the West Bengal government's internal report, Bulbul affected 3.56 million people and damaged 0.5 million houses. 
    • On the livelihoods front, it damaged crops across almost 1.5 million hectares of land, triggered fishery damage to the tune of 100 million USD, and killed 13,286 livestock.


  • Demographic Profile: Migration in large numbers can alter demographic profiles of communities, as most of the young men move out, leaving only the women and elderly to work on the land.
  • Political Exclusion: Migrant workers are deprived of many opportunities to exercise their political rights like the right to vote.
  • Population Explosion and the Influx of workers in the place of destination increases competition for the job, houses, school facilities etc. and a large population puts too much pressure on natural resources, amenities, and services.
  • Illiterate and Under-skilled Migrants are not only unfit for most jobs, because of a lack of basic knowledge and life skills but are also prone to the victimization of exploitation, trafficking, psychological abuse, and gender-based violence in the case of female migrants.
  • Increased Slum: Mass Migration results into an increase in slum areas, compromising quality of infrastructure and life at the destination, which further translates into many other problems such as unhygienic conditions, crime, pollution, etc.

Challenges of Internal Migration:

  • Forced Displacement: A large number of people are forcefully displaced due to mega-dams, Special Economic Zones, corporate land grabs for mining and industrialization. Of the 60 million displaced people because of mega projects, between 1947 and 2000, as many as 10-20 million tribals have been displaced by ‘development’ projects.
  • People migrating for work face key challenges including
    1. Lack of social security and health benefits and poor implementation of minimum safety standards law, 
    2. Lack of portability of state-provided benefits especially food provided through the public distribution system (PDS) and 
    3. Lack of access to affordable housing and basic amenities in urban areas.
  • These challenges were quite evident during the Covid lockdown in 2020 when a huge migrant wave started and government faced difficulties in providing the migrants necessary health and social security.

Measures taken:

  • In 2021, NITI Aayog, along with a working subgroup of officials and members of civil society, has prepared a draft National Migrant Labour policy.
  • The ramping up of One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) project and introduction of the Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHC), PM Garib Kalyan Yojna scheme and e-Shram portal reflected a ray of hope.
  • However, the story of migrants is still a tale of distress in India.


There is a need of state and local governments to create favourable legislative and policy frameworks with respect to all internal migrants, including inter-state migrants. Thus thereby train the local community and people for disaster mitigation and preparedness.


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