An Analysis of India’s Rural-Urban Migration Patterns

An Analysis of India's Rural-Urban Migration Patterns
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Image Source: PTI

Migration is a process of human movement from one place to the other with contention of settling down for a short period or permanently. There are mostly two types of human migration; the first one is external movement in which people travel outside their nation  and go to settle in another country. Another one is internal migration in which people move to places located within their country’s border only. 

There are various factors behind migration, such as poverty, violence, natural calamity, climate conditions, employment opportunities, better facilities etc. 

Sometimes this migration is very important for the survival of people, and goes in a positive way but sometimes it proves very negative and has devastating results on the mass of different places. Today we have already seen grave migration cum refugee crises such as the Rohingya crisis and more.

Migration In India

The Indian population living in rural areas is continuously migrating in the urban areas since our independence. Urbanization is very common in the country because it adopted the principles of mixed economy, resulting in huge development of private sectors. These sectors gave much contribution in the development of cities and centers of employment. Owing to this reason the number of Indians residing in Urban areas rose to 28% in 2001 from 11% in 1947 according to the census and to a whopping 34% in the year 2017 according to the world  bank. 

The trend of urbanization is popular because of the absence of basic needs in rural society. Water, education, cleanliness, sanitation, electricity and medical services are very prominent in the urban cities as compared to the villages. 

Patterns of Migration in India

Though the Indian mass was continuously migrating but in early times the inter state migration was very slow, the census 1961 showed the registration of 68.6 percent out of the total population was done at their birth place which proves that only 31.4 percent people migrated. In the 1971 Census, this number decreased to 29.5 percent.

It is the urbanization which acted as a catalyst agent in the scenarios of migration. Post independence, India witnessed its own industrial revolution and thus four metropolitan cities Kolkata, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai were developed, later numerous more cities were developed and this increased the living standard of people living in urban areas, seeing this more and more population from rural areas started to migrate in urban areas, in order to seek better life and other facilities. 

The Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India estimated the urban population at 358 million for the year 2011, and projected that the urban population growth rate would decline from 2.75% per year during 1991–2001 to 2.23 during 2001–2011 (Registrar) General and Census Commissioner 2006). Urban experts also believed that India’s urbanization would slow due to its exclusionary nature and inability to encourage rural-to-urban migration (Kundu 2007, 2011). However, the 2011 census shows some unexpected results.

According to the 2011 census, the urban population increased to 377 million during 2001–2011, showing a growth rate of 2.76% per annum. The level of urbanization across the country increased from 27.7% in 2001 to 31.1% in 2011 – an increase of 3.3 percentage points during 2001–2011 compared to an increase of 2.1 percentage points during 1991–2001. It may be noted that the Indian economy grew from about 6% per year during the 1990s to about 8% during the first decade of the 2000s (Ahluwalia 2011). This clearly shows the power of economic growth in driving rapid urbanization during 2001–2011. 

The pattern of urbanization began to grow large with the passing of time, a report of United Nations claimed that India’s urban population is projected to be 67,54,56,000 in 2035, growing from 48,30,99,000 in 2020 to 54,27,43,000 in 2025 and 60,73,42,000 in 2030, making it second biggest urban population in the world, just behind China. 


The great rise of growth of urbanization has both good and bad sides. On a good note it is increasing our country’s economy but on the bad side it is creating a population burden on urban areas. Also the agriculture sector may get affected by rapid urbanization. No matter what the future is currently, urbanization is healing more lives than ruining them. 


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