COVID-19 could lead to spurt in Punjab migration: Study

Preliminary findings pertained to 296 migrants from 207 households of 5 villages in rural Patiala

By Rajeev Khanna
Published: Wednesday 15 April 2020

The entire world is fighting the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. Among concerns over the post-pandemic scenario in socio-economic, socio-political and socio-cultural-domains, one that could potentially be affected is migration of Indians abroad.

Many youths from Punjab migrate in large numbers to western countries in search of greener pastures. The same might, experts believe, would see a spurt in a post-pandemic scenario.

A group of experts in the state undertook a study titled ‘Socio-Economic and Demographic Analysis of International Migration from Rural Punjab’. The research hit a road block following the lockdown, but a few preliminary findings provide some interesting insights.

Migration is expected to increase in the post-pandemic scenario, according to one of the project directors Gian Singh. He underlined the need the state and central governments to come out with drastic interventions if the country wants to retain its demographic asset.

The expert panel also included Gurinder Kaur, Dharampal, Rashmi, Rupinder Kaur and Jyoti. They selected four districts covering three geographical regions of Punjab.

These included Amritsar from Majha region, Jalandhar from Doaba and two districts of Patiala and Bathinda from Malwa region.

The preliminary findings pertained to 296 migrants from 207 households of five villages in rural Patiala. There were 12 instances where entire families migrated abroad. 

The study included those who migrated up to December 2019.

People from general caste accounted for 92.57 per cent of the total migrated, while those from backward caste accounted for 2.70 per cent. Dalits who migrated were a meagre 4.73 per cent.

Even among the general category, it was the land-owning Jats who accounted for 91.56 per cent of the share.

Among the most widely chosen countries included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Italy — where 129, 66, 25, 17 and 16 persons from the surveyed 296 emigrants migrated.

The findings showed that 56.42 per cent migrants came from nuclear families. One of the positive aspects of the phenomenon was that the most of it, almost 92 per cent, has been legal.

“The phenomenon saw a spurt after 2015. With agriculture not offering remunerative returns, there was a dearth of jobs. Illegal emigrants were spending between Rs 40 lakh and Rs 50 lakh; the legal process takes about Rs 10- 20 lakh,” said Gian Singh.

The study showed that those who had more than 10 acres of land accounted for 22.97 per cent of the emigrants, followed by those who had 2.51-5 acres and who accounted for 21.99 per cent.

The figure for landless emigrants was 8.11 per cent.

Experts also found that the major sources of funding were family savings, a land or plot, house vehicle or agricultural machinery along with loans from banks, relatives, money lenders, etc.

The study cited unemployment, desire to earn more, peer pressure and better living conditions as major reasons for migration.

Interestingly, of the 296 cases studied, families of only 34.12 per cent received remittances. Of these, 23.76 per cent had received Rs 50,000-1 lakh.

It was also discovered that 69 families were not under any debt while 48 of them had a loan of Rs 5-10 lakh. At least 58.45 per cent of the emigrants were males.

According to Singh, western powers that need manpower for physical and mental labour would continue to lure migrants.

The preliminary findings of the study pointed out that while graduates and post graduates accounted for 39.87 per cent of the emigrants, the figure for those having studied up to matric and secondary-level was 52.70 per cent.

The latter mainly got enrolled in tasks that were physical in nature.

“Even when we are in the middle of a pandemic, countries like Canada are paying students and others who migrated. This will lead to an increase in emigration. In the long run, it is bound to have a major impact on socio-cultural, socio-political and socio-economic spheres,” Singh said.

Can India afford this type of brain-drain?

“It is the demographic asset that we are losing. About 96 per cent of emigrants were found to be in the most productive age group of 15 to 45 years. This calls for a planned strategy and some serious interventions,” Singh added.

“The public sector needs to be strengthened in India. There have to be regulations on private sector and this has to be followed by proper monitoring as was done by several countries after the Great Depression of 1929. The disparity has to be removed,” he added.

Saying that the present corporate model cannot be allowed to continue, he underlined the need of taxing the rich to improve the condition of the poor.


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