Mobile people, immobile structures: a study of internal migrants in India and access to social protection

Ahmed, Nabeela (2018) Mobile people, immobile structures: a study of internal migrants in India and access to social protection. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis compares the experiences of internal migrants engaged in low-skilled and unskilled labour, with their local non-migrant counterparts in urban India to explore patterns and structures of access to state social protection. While Indians are constitutionally permitted to work and settle anywhere within the country, migrants face a range of barriers to accessing state social protection, in term of policy and implementation. The thesis uses the example of the Public Distribution System (PDS) - a universal food subsidy scheme and India’s largest social protection programme - and takes into account the role of governance to explore how social protection access is experienced by diverse types of labour migrants, with local labourers living in the same city.

The thesis is based on evidence gathered over nine months through mainly qualitative methods (semi-structured interviews and observation, supplemented by a sampling survey) in two cities: Ahmedabad and Nashik, representing the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra respectively. A final round of supplementary key informant interviews was conducted in Delhi.

The empirical findings show that both migrants and local labourers face a range of significant barriers to access, though to varying degrees. However, a strong dichotomy between their experiences is not observed. Instead these complex and diverse experiences can be represented as a broad and overlapping ‘spectrum’ of vulnerabilities: where local labourers face relatively fewer barriers, and migrants – varied in terms of spatial and temporal factors – face distinctly intense barriers. The findings also highlight that, while individual state context does not have a strong effect on barriers to accessing the PDS, divergences between constitutional law, government policy and implementation across India are influential in structuring the experiences of precariousness among labour migrants.

Finally, the thesis presents evidence on how all poor, urban labourers deploy multiple strategies to overcome barriers to access. Migrant agency however is displayed in distinct forms. The findings illustrate how labour migrants, regardless of temporal or spatial factors, actively maintain ‘multi-locational’ linkages between places of destination and origin to overcome access barriers.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Geography
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic theory. Demography > HB0848 Demography. Population. Vital events > HB1951 Population geography. Migration > HB1952 Internal migration
H Social Sciences > HB Economic theory. Demography > HB0848 Demography. Population. Vital events > HB1951 Population geography. Migration > HB1961-2157 By region or country > HB2099 India
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 22 Oct 2018 14:53
Last Modified: 24 Nov 2020 07:54
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/79660

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