India; Where is Census 2011 Data to Study Migration?

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Aijaz Ahmad Turrey 1 May 2019

India is a country of villages where most of the population is still dependent on agriculture. One of the noting characteristics of this population in contemporary world is mobility at both national and international level. This movement has resulted in an increasing pressure in the urban areas and the number is steadily growing every year. India is no exception to this trend. As per the census, the level of urbanization in India has increased from 27.81% in 2001 to 31.16% in 2011. Urbanization in India is a consequence of demographic explosion and poverty-induced rural-urban migration.

The Economic Survey of India (2017) estimates that the magnitude of inter-state migration in India was close to 9 million annually between 2011 and 2016, while Census 2011 pegs the total number of internal migrants in the country (accounting for inter- and intra-state movement) at a staggering 139 million. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are the biggest source states, followed closely by Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal; the major destination states are Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala (Sharma, 2017). As per Prachee Mishra (2017), migration in India is majorly between rural to rural areas (47.4%), followed by urban to urban areas (22.6%), rural to urban areas (22.1%), and urban to rural areas (7.9%). Between Census 2001 and 2011, rural to urban migration increased marginally from 21.8% to 22.1%, and urban to urban migration increased from 15.2% to 22.6%. Samarth Bansal (2016) estimated 45.36 crore migrants in Indian, which is about 37 per cent of the Indian population.

The above-mentioned studies and several others have based their fact-findings on census 2011 data. Various articles have also been published in this regard. But is the data a real and perfect one? As census has only updated the provisional estimates of 2011 migration data. The other problem is that these provisional estimates have been established at the country and state level and the district level data is still missing. Researches at M.Phil. and Ph.D. levels are being conducted in several universities on the Indian migration studies and I am also one among them. The basic problem which the researchers are facing is the unavailability of the census 2011 migration data. It has stuck some researchers while forced others to go for primary surveys.

The other problem that there is no other data source at such level. Census reflects truth and facts as they exist in a country about its people, their diversity of habitation, religion, culture, language, education, health and socio-economic status. Today, India stands at cross roads of history. Census collection had been going on from the British times. Therefore, such casual behaviour is totally unacceptable. Census 2011 has been conducted in 2010-2011 and since then 6th year is about to pass, and we do not have authentic, reliable and true data to use. The next decadal census will be conducted in 2020-2021 and preparations has already started. The information provided so far, is limited, slow and retrograde in terms of time factor. What is the use of conducting a survey when you are unable to provide data at time. There should be a time-period for publishing such data as it not only affects research candidates but also government agencies in framing accurate policies. In present scenario how can we expect that the purpose of collecting census data is to help the government form various policies which are pro-people in nature although we can continue to debate forever whether the government makes pro-people policies or not. It would be too ambitious to expect the easy access to data on time but what needs is a concerted effort towards the collection, tabulation and release of that data on time without ambiguities.


Census of India, 2011 Provisional Migration Estimates. Retrieved from

Krishnavatar Sharma. (2017). India has 139 million internal migrants. They must not be forgotten. World Economic Forum.

Prachee Mishra. (2017). Report of the Working Group on Migration. PRS Legislative Research. Institute for Policy Research Studies.

Samarth Bansal. (2016). 45.36 crore Indians are internal migrants. The Hindu. Retrieved from

Sango Bidani. (2010). The Problematics Of Census In India. Youth Ki Awaaz. Retrieved from

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