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In Mumbai, Marathwada migrants rise above poverty line

A migrant from Maharashtra’s drought-stricken Marathwada region triples her income – if temporarily – after moving to Mumbai, climbs out of poverty and can repay loans, but families must live in 40 sq ft homes, the size of a large carpet, according to an IndiaSpend survey of 60 migrant families.

Each adult in these families earned Rs 1,823 ($27) per person per month – about 80 per cent more than the official urban poverty line of Rs 1,000 per person per month – within four months of migrating to Mumbai, our survey revealed. Most are farm workers in their villages and work at construction and municipal-infrastructure sites in India’s financial capital.

Back home in Nanded in Marathwada, 600 km to the east, each person earned Rs 569 per month, 30 percent below the rural poverty line of Rs 819 per person per month.

Migrants settled for less water in Mumbai – about 43 lt per day per family, down from 115 lt per day in their villages – but said it was easier to get, without having to fetch it from various distant sources. The average rural Indian family spends 30 minutes every day fetching water, according to the Indian Human Development Survey (IHDS II), which surveyed 42,153 households.

Some of the Rs 266 extra per day the families earned in Mumbai was spent in paying for food, which for three months until April 15 cost twice as much as they paid back home. Their daily expenses of Rs 300 per family per day halved when they started received free foodgrains – rice and tur dal-from Ghatkopar citizen groups.

At home, about 72 per cent of the migrants reported getting subsidised grain from the public distribution system; about half the families said children got mid-day meals at public schools. Once school ends in March, families usually assess how much water is available in the village and then decide if they will take them along to Mumbai.

This year, the decision was easy to make.

As many as 22 of Maharashtra’s 36 districts are in the grip of the second successive year of drought. Families from the drought-ravaged districts have migrated – many more this time than any other years in the recent past, according to anecdotal accounts – to Mumbai, Pune and Aurangabad.

Our sample was taken from among 350 migrant Marathwada families, who live illegally in rough shelters – tarpaulins held up by bamboo sticks – on the edge of municipal open land adjoining a hill in Ghatkopar, a teeming central Mumbai suburb.

Lack of jobs, stuttering government plans fuel nationwide migration

The 2016 drought has affected 330 million Indians living in 266 districts across 11 states. It is not clear how many have migrated, but the number is expected to be in millions. About a third of Indians migrate every year, according to the 2001 Census, indicating that rural incomes and government aid programmes are not sufficient.

Nine in 10 migrants we surveyed left their Marathwada villages to find jobs. Half had outstanding loans to moneylenders, ranging from Rs 20,000 to Rs 250,000. Almost all of them were confident of earning money in Mumbai and repaying those loans.

The 60 families we surveyed in Ghatkopar had grown their income by 214 per cent, tripling it.

The migrants share a good rapport with local municipal-labour contractors, planning their visits when municipal and other construction work – building or repairing roads, pavements and flyovers – is about to begin. They leave when work stops during the monsoon.

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