ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Realities of Voting in India

Perspectives from Internal Labour Migrants

While the nature of work and consequent socio-economic realities deprive migrant workers within India of their voting rights, the lack of official documentation of internal migration, especially for informal employment, prevents any conscientious policy actions for addressing the issue.

For the first time ever, the Economic Survey, 2017, provided an estimate of internal work-related migration using railways data for the period 2011–16 (GOI 2017). The results showed an average interstate migration of almost nine million people a year. While migrants from the Hindi heartland of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh largely move to Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Gujarat, those from the eastern states of Jharkhand and Odisha travel not only to Kolkata in West Bengal, but also to Kerala, in increasing numbers.

According to the 2011 Census, 51 million migrants moved within India for economic reasons, constituting nearly 10% of the labour force. This gives rise to a concern about the political voicelessness of these migrant workers who are unable to practise their voting rights because of economic migration. There are no statistics available on how many migrant workers have changed their constituency to vote at their current work location. Yet, it is intuitively understandable that economic realities—such as daily wage-based work arrangements, and the time and cost of travel to their domicile—will exclude them from the participatory process of voting, which is their constitutional right. This article tries to understand the various barriers that exclude internal economic migrants from participating in the electoral process by examining the narratives of migrants working as daily wage labourers in Kerala. These migrants are mainly natives of West Bengal and Odisha, who have found work in Kerala largely because of a large number of Keralites moving abroad for work. The current estimate of internal migrants to Kerala is estimated at 3 million, as against 2.2 million international emigrants from the state. The migrants, however, find jobs largely in the informal manufacturing and construction sectors. This article builds on the perspectives from these workers to give an idea about the nature of work and the extent of work-related freedom available to the internal migrants in India.

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Updated On : 3rd May, 2019
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