Perceptions of Poverty, Social Relations and Life Goals Among Debt-Migrants in India
Building on her previous work on the developmental significance of internal migration, Deshingkar presents an alternative viewpoint on debt-migration in brick-kilns and the construction industry, through migrants’ perceptions of poverty, identity, aspirations and long term life goals. Often described as neo-slavery and neo-bondage, debt-migration has been viewed as an extension of caste and class based exploitation by policy makers, academics and NGOs alike. In contrast, migrants’ perceptions of their own life trajectories and the role of particular labor markets and social relations (especially labor market intermediaries) are fundamentally different. Deshingkar shows that while migrants perceive their own situation to be much more dignified and on an upward trajectory, others see them as moving from one desperate situation to another with little or no prospects for improving their life chances. She concludes by arguing for a more nuanced view of the risks and opportunities offered by migration rather than the polarized and bleak view that is enshrined in a number of development policies. She also calls for more support for poor migrants who, owing to the negative policy context, have to take unnecessary risks in their quest to benefit from India’s growth. The research draws on field research conducted in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra between 2006 and 2009.