Understanding the Indian migrant crisis: A lecture by Professor Chinmay Tumbe on September 23, 2020


Dr. Chinmay Tumbe, author of India Moving: A History of Migration, helped  students at the Asian College of Journalism wrap their heads around why people migrate and how migrants behave in times of crises.

The Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad professor explained the long history of migration in India and how it varied with factors such as gender, caste, religion and region. Tumbe also highlighted the economic and psychological reasons behind people leaving their birthplace. 

For instance, many people moved from their villages to cities because they heard about better job prospects from their peers who already worked there. Some moved out from their smaller towns to study or after they got married. Many simply wanted to take advantage of the anonymity of the big city.

Tumbe said the Indian government could have averted the pandemic-induced migrant crisis with better planning and communication. 

The sudden decision of a national lockdown saw a flight reaction among migrants because their homes are where they find social security, he said, adding that pandemic-related confusion and sudden shutting down of railways exacerbated their worries.

Tumbe urged Indian policymakers to look at portable social security schemes such as ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ to tackle the migrant crisis. He also lamented the lack of residence-based voting in India, which in turn makes migrants politically invisible.