This paper explores the relationship between migration, remote rural areas (RRAs) and chronic poverty in India and is part of a series on spatial poverty traps. It argues through the analysis of three rounds (2001/02, 2003/04 and 2006/07) of qualitative and quantitative data from six villages in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh (AP) and Madhya Pradesh (MP) that migration is higher among chronically poor groups living in RRAs and that it plays an important role in managing risk and improving standards of living and household wellbeing. Although it is impossible to say that the poor have become non-poor as a result of migration, because of the difficulties of measuring poverty and multiple deprivations, the overall impact of migration in terms of being able to repay debts faster, being able to eat more regularly, being able to spend on education, health, agriculture and housing and being able to borrow large sums when needed has been positive and has raised the social and economic status of migrant households. However, these positive impacts come at a cost, because migration increases the risk of injury and exposure to disease and noxious substances, as well as the negative impacts of long separation from ones family.
It is concluded that migration from RRAs needs to be recognised at the policy level as an important poverty interruptor for chronically poor people. Policy should aim to minimise the costs and risks of migration and maximise its returns. At present, migrants cannot access subsidised food through the Public Distribution System (PDS), which works on residence criteria; they cannot easily access state schools, cheap housing or government health care. There is an urgent need to reform policy in these critical areas. While investing in dryland areas should remain a priority for government, people’s own efforts to access the benefits of growth in other regions should not be discouraged.
Deshingkar, P. Migration, remote rural areas and chronic poverty in India. CPRC Working Paper 163. Chronic Poverty Research Centre, London, UK (2010) 41 pp. ISBN 978 1 907288 06 7