By Diditi Mitra & Shashwati Talukdar
Our host, while driving us to his village, stopped by at a fish farm that he had acquired. The caretaker of the fish farm was a migrant from Bihar, who lived with his family, in a mud shack by the water. His son was going to the local school. A friend of our host, who is a teacher, who had come along for the ride, immediately asked to see his books. The boy was going to a Punjabi language school, and was at the top of his class.
While there’s migration out of Punjab, there’s also migration into Punjab. According to Census data published by the Indian government in 2001, about 8.7 percent of Punjab’s population is comprised of migrants from other parts of the country. Of all the Indian states, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana were the largest migrant sending states. Migration from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to Punjab has been slowing down though. The Census also reported that the three states with the highest proportion of in-migrants in 2001 were Maharashtra, Delhi and West Bengal. As for Punjab itself, the Census reported that of all the out- and in-migrants in the country for the year 2001, about 3 percent of people migrated out of Punjab, while approximately 5 percent migrated into Punjab (Census calculations are based on the total out- and in-migrants in India). Further, men comprise a higher number of migrants into Punjab. Work is the primary reason for men in general to have migrated. Women, on the contrary, are much more likely to migrate for familial reasons, like marriage. However, women are likely to become laborers when they migrate along with their husbands to various parts of India. The women too become part of that migrant worker pool and contribute to the household income.
The photographs offer a glimpse into the lives of those men, women and children who comprise migrant families in Punjab. The first is of the fisherman who, along with his family, had migrated to Punjab from Bihar, followed by a photograph of his son. On the left is a photograph of a migrant woman from Bihar. She had migrated with her husband. It was on our way to Chandigarh from Jalandhar that we saw her working alongside the highway – selling hand-made baskets.
(Go here for the first post in the series)