Population Density, Distribution and Growth in India: Migration Trends in India, Causes of Migration, Consequences of Migration

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Image of population density

Image of Population Density

  • Out of 1.02 billion people in the country, 307 million (30%) were reported as migrants by place of birth. Migrants by place of birth are those who are enumerated at a village/town at the time of census other than their place of birth. This proportion i.e. 30% as reported in 2001 census (excluding Jammu and Kashmir) is slightly more than what was reported in 1991 i.e. 27.4%. In fact, there has been steady increase in number of migrants over successive censuses.

  • If we compare between 1961 and 2001 then it has been observed that it has increased between 1961 and 2001 from 144 million to 307 million. During the last ten years (1991-2001), the number of migrants (excluding Jammu and Kashmir) rose by 32.9%. Further break of the migrants in terms of sex and on the basis of source and destination are given below.

India: Total Migrants and their Break-up 2001

India: Total Migrants and Their Break-Up 2001
India: Total Migrants and their Break-up 2001

Types of Migrants

No. of Population (in millions)

Total Migrants






  • Intra-district


  • Inter-district


  • Inter-state


  • From Abroad


  • If we look at their movement patterns, it has been observed that Maharashtra received largest number of migrants (7.9 million) followed by Delhi (5.6 million) and West Bengal (5.5 million). On the other hand, Uttar Pradesh followed by Bihar and Rajasthan are the three top contributors of out migrants. But if we look at the net migration i.e. the differences between in-migrants and out-migrants Maharashtra stands at the top of the list with 2.3 million net migration followed by Delhi (1.7 million), Gujarat (0.68 million) and Haryana (0.67 million).

  • We have discussed below the age profile of the migrants and duration of stay of the migrants. In census, the first one is termed as migrants by place of birth by age and migrants by place of last residence.

Migrants by Age: Out of the total migrants numbering about 258 million who migrated within the state, 17.4% are in the age group of 15-24 years, 23.2% in 25-34 years, and 35.6% in 35-59 years. In the case of inter-state migrants, out of which 42 million (18.5%) is in the age group of 15-24 years, 24.7% is in the age group of 25-34 years and 36.1% is in 35-59 years. In both the groups i.e., inter-state and intra-state migration we find high proportion of migrants are in the older and economically active age group.

Migrants by Place of Last Residence: This data is collected to understand the population of migration. It is likely that after one moves out of place of birth, one may continue to migrate from one place to another. Study of migration by place of birth is like studying onetime event. Data on migration by last residence reveals recent migrations over the years and therefore more informative. The data on migration by last residence in India as per 2001 census shows that the total number of migrants was 314 million.

  • If we look at their duration of stay it has been observed that a substantial proportion among the total migrants i.e. 101 million out of 314 million had migrated at least 20 years back. About 98.3 million had migrated over the last decade (i.e. duration 09 years). We will analyse in detail about the migration that took place in the last decade in two broad categories- (a) Intra-state and (b) Inter-state migration within these two broad categories analysis will be made in terms of migration by streams and by sex.

Intra-State Migration: The majority of the migrants belong to this category. According to 2001 Census, 80.73 million of people are intra-state migrants. Among these migrants, overwhelming population i.e. 60.5 % were rural to rural migrants whereas only 12.3 % belonged to the category of urban to urban migrants. The remaining 17.6 % migrants belonged to the category of rural to urban and 6.5% belonged to the urban to rural areas. The rest 3.1 % is unclassified which means that the respondents have not mentioned any stream.

  • Among intra-state migrants about 70 % were females. This high percentage was mainly due to marriages. About 69% of the female migrants were from rural to rural migration. 9.7 % of female migrants moved from one urban centre to another, 13.6 % moved from rural to urban areas and only 5.6 % from urban to rural areas. The rest 2.6 % is unclassified.

  • In the case of male migrants, 41.6 % belonged to the category of rural to rural migrants, 18.3 % belonged to urban to urban, 27.1 % belonged to rural to urban and 8.6 % were urban to rural. The major chunk of population who moved from rural to rural areas are mainly moved out in search of employment.

Inter-State Migration: In India inter-state migration is limited in comparison to intra-state migration. According to 2001 Census, 17 million people were inter-state migrants. Out of these 17 million people, 26.6 % belonged to the category of rural to rural migrants, 26.7 % belonged to the category of urban to urban, 37.9 % belonged to rural to urban and 6.3 % belonged to urban to rural. The rest 2.6% is unclassified.

  • About half of all inter-state migrants were males. Among them 26.6% moved within the rural areas, 26.7 % moved within the urban areas. 37.9 % of migrants moved from rural to urban areas and 6.3 % from urban to rural areas.

Causes of Migration

Migration is a result of an inter-play of a large number of factors. Generally, factors affecting migration can be grouped in to two categories of push and pull factors. The push factors are responsible for making people move from their original place of living. The pull factors are responsible for attracting people to some particular areas. Unless both these factors are operating simultaneously, no migration of people can be possible. The push and pull factors include the economic, social and political components.

  • Economic Factor: The people generally like to live in those areas where they can make their livelihood. Thus, they would like to move away from areas of poor soils, less developed means of transport, low levels of industrialization, and less job opportunities. These are the push factors. On the other hand, the areas offering good employment and better living standard attract large number of people. These are the pull factors. Thus, all areas of fertile soil, deposits of minerals, better means of transportation and communication, and higher levels of development of industries and urban areas provide more means of making a living. A large number of people move to the cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai from neighbouring and different parts of the country like Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh where opportunities are less. The most important factor for which they move is the expected improvement in their economic conditions. Many are attracted by an apparent glare of city life with all its modern comforts and attractions.

  • Socio-Political Factor: Man is a social being and he likes to live with his kith and kin. Generally, the people having a common religion or language, or social customs like to live together. On the other hand, a person would like to migrate to some other place if he is living among the people belonging to some other culture or customs. Many people migrate to places of religious importance. Migration of people to places like Badrinath, Tirupati, and Varanasi though generally temporary is due to religious factors. The impact of the social factors is more clearly seen in the concentration of people belonging to a particular community in one locality of urban area or in a particular city. Religious or social suppression of the minority communities can be an important push factor if the majority community is not tolerant to the other community.

Political factors related to the government policy are responsible for migration. This factor is becoming increasingly important in the modern times. Government can influence the incidence rates and directions of the migrations to a great extent. In some cases, the minority communities are discriminated against and they are thus forced out of the countries. Partition of India into India and Pakistan at the time of independence resulted in large scale migration of people between the two countries.

  • Demographic factor: Age is the important demographic factor. Young population is more mobile than the children and old age population. This is because young people mostly move either for work/better opportunities or further study.

Consequences of Migration

The consequences are felt in both the regions i.e. the areas of origin of the migrants and the areas of destination. The consequences of migration can be grouped as:

Economic Consequences: Among the economic consequences, the effects on the resource-population ratio are most significant. This ratio undergoes change in both the areas involved. The resource-population ratio may be such in an area which might be called either under populated or overpopulated or adequately populated or optimum populated. The condition of under population means a condition of too low a population to allow development and utilization of its resources.

  • On the other hand, over population is a condition, when the pressure of population on resources is very high and generally results in low standards of living. A country having enough number of people to enable development and utilization of its resources without lowering the quality of life is called adequately populated. If the people are moving from an area of over-population to an area of under population, the result is in the direction of balancing the resource-population ratio. On the other hand, if the migration is from an area of under population to overpopulated or adequately populated, the consequences may be harmful to both the areas.

  • Migration affects the occupational structure of the population in both the regions. Generally, the proportion of working population in source areas is lowered and the same proportion in the receiving areas is increased. Thus, the population of the receiving areas tends to become more productive and in the source areas it results in increasing the dependency ratio by reducing the proportion of the working people in the population. One of the serious consequences of migration is brain drain. This refers to the migration of the skilled persons from the poorer countries to the developed countries in search of better economic opportunities. An example can be of the migration of the doctors and engineers etc. from India to the USA, the UK and Canada. This type of migration does not alter the resource-population ratio significantly as the number of people involved in migration is not very large. However, the quality of human resources in the source region suffers a lot. The resource of the source regions, which are generally poorer countries, cannot be developed fully because of the huge size of the population.

Social Consequences: Migration involves interaction of different cultures. The receiving areas might receive through migration people belonging to different cultures and this might lead to cultural enrichment. India is a country which received migrants belonging to different cultural groups and the modern culture of India is a result of this inter-mixing of different cultures. Sometimes people coming together having different cultures might result in cultural conflicts also.

  • Many migrants (mainly male members) those who stay alone in the city involve in extramarital and unsafe sexual practice. Some of them start taking drugs through infected syringes. Due to these unsafe practices, many of them got HIV infected. But this does not stop here. When these people go back to their home, they infect their spouses. HIV is also transmitted to their unborn child. This happens due to lack of awareness, unsafe practices, curiosity about sex, experimentation with drugs and alcohol.

Demographic Consequences: Due to migrations, the characteristics of the populations in both the regions undergo changes, not only the age and sex structure of the population but also the rate of growth of population is altered. Generally, the proportion of the old, children and females is increased in the source areas due to migration. On the other hand, the proportion of these persons in the population of the receiving areas is generally lowered. This is one of the reasons for high sex ratio in source areas and low sex ratio in the receiving areas. This happens because it is the youthful male population which is mostly involved in migration. Thus, not only the number of people but also the structure of population in both regions involved in migration is changed. This results in changes in rates of fertility, mortality, and consequently in the growth of population. The source regions are depleted of the youthful population and this result in lowered rates of births and comparatively lower rates of growth. An inverse impact is observed in the case of population structure of the receiving areas.

In brief, it can be said that

  • Human resource is the most important resource in an area. It is the quality rather than quantity of this resource which is important for the economic development of a country.

  • India is the second most populous country of the world after China. The distribution of population is generally studied in terms of density. The density of population in India is not uniform. On the basis of density of population, India can be divided into three broad regions of high density, the areas of moderate density, and the areas of low density. The factors which affect the density and distribution can be grouped into two categories. They are physical factors and socio-economic factors.

  • The population of India has been increasing very rapidly since 1921 and the rate of growth has been increasing. The growth rate of population is determined by the birth rate, death rate, and migration of an area. Like density and distribution, the growth rate is also not uniform throughout the country.

  • Migration is an important factor for the growth rate of population. Migration can be divided into various types. It can be divided as permanent and temporary. On the basis of source of origin and destination of migrant population, it can be divided into rural to rural, rural to urban, urban to urban, and urban to rural. These four types can be grouped under two categories i.e., inter-state migration and intra-state migration.

  • People move from one place to other under the influence of economic, socio-political, and demographic factors. The causes of migration can be studied in terms of push and pull factors. The consequences of migrations are numerous, and they can be studied in terms of economic, social, and demographic consequences. The migrants involve themselves in extra marital relation and drug abuse due to their loneliness since they have left their family at their source.

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