New Delhi, India (Reportase One) – As Sujeet Kumar walked past the houses and paddy fields of his village to catch the train to Mumbai, he shared his thoughts on the good life in this dreamy Indian city.
The 21-year-old from Jaunpur district, Uttar Pradesh state, went to the city’s economic hub ‘forced’, just like millions of other people.
“Mumbai is a city of rich people. Whoever goes to Mumbai, his luck changes,” said Kumar. “I hope luck is on my side there too, and I can improve.”
These internal migrations will become more and more frequent, as India’s density increases which will bring it to become the country with the largest population density. This causes the government to face various challenges, such as the slow development of urban infrastructure, as well as providing jobs, including for young people who have no education.
According to 2011 data, the latest available data, India’s population was then 1.21 billion, including 456 million internal migrants.
The United Nations projects that India’s population reached more than 1.42 billion last week, a figure that surpasses China’s.
Two-thirds of India’s population are people aged 35 years. Many of those who live on the outskirts of the city migrate to the cities to work in various jobs—labourers, drivers, shop staff, housing. Many of them are from Uttar Pradesh or Bihar, other states whose population is increasing faster than anywhere else in the country.
“Migrants are always focused on more hazardous jobs. Better jobs are not available to these migrants, and they have very little political power to negotiate wages,” said Mukta Naik, a migration expert at the New Delhi Center for Policy Research.
“There aren’t enough jobs out there, and those jobs aren’t great for attracting people in the long term, not enough wages to invest in a house, to get their kids off to the cities to study.”
In addition to difficulties in finding work and low wages, migrants are also faced with the problem of living costs and finding a place to live. They do not have access to social security, and are vulnerable to being involved in criminal acts that often occur in urban slum alleys.
Abdul Nur (37), a security guard in Bengaluru, said he left his hometown, Assam, when he was 17 years old. Since then, he has lived and resided in various places in Chennai, Hyderabad and Mumbai.
“When I was in Mumbai, there was too much tension. It was hot and there was a lot of crime,” he said.
A decade ago, he was living in India’s economic hub. According to him, it is very difficult to live on only 14,000 rupees (Rp 2,539,047) a month, because of high rents and food prices.
Even Bengaluru, India’s technology center, which is increasingly crowded with migrants, is becoming very expensive too, said Nur.
“I sent my wife and children back to my village,” he said. “With my salary it is very difficult to educate him here. I will live alone now.”
Not a few migrants become very disappointed, to the point that they return to their hometowns.
Bhikhari Manhi (30) left his village in Odisha state and worked in Bengaluru. There, he was promised a job as a construction worker with a salary of 10,000 rupees per month (Rp 1,813,605). His contractor only pays him 100 rupees (Rp 18,136) per week for two months. Although promised to pay the rest, but the payment never came.
“When we asked for our money, we got beat up,” he said.
Earlier this month, Manjhi and two residents from her hometown walked approximately 1,000km over seven days to return home.
“We live in a forest area, and earn 15,000 rupees (Rp 2,720,407) per year,” he said of his current condition.
In cities like Bengaluru, one can earn more than that amount in a month. But Manjhi says she doesn’t want to go back there anymore.
Based on 2020 data from the International Labor Organization, migrants contribute 10 percent of the total gross domestic product. They are the backbone of several sectors. The money they sent home reduced their family’s poverty rate and improved their welfare, the report said.
Experts say the government needs to create more jobs and ensure that they are evenly distributed in every corner of the country, especially in the north and east where development is still lacking.
“Indian villages are (only) providing jobs in the form of underemployment,” said the head of India’s Center for Economic Monitoring, Mahesh Vyas.
This means that even though there are more jobs in agriculture, agricultural output has not increased at all, he said. The only investments in the interior other than agriculture are temporary infrastructure projects, which provide short-term jobs.
Cities, despite their many flaws, will still attract the attention of migrants, because they are the best places to offer jobs, he said. Kumar from Jaunpur agrees about that.
With a new haircut and sunglasses, Kumar recorded videos and took photos during his visits to tourist spots in Mumbai to post on his social media accounts.
“I really like this place… It’s much better than my village,” he said.
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Translator: Mecca Yumna
Editor: Atman Ahdiat
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