Roughly a 100 million Indians have moved in search of work from their native place. Where do they go and what work do they find?
“There is always work available in Surat," recounts a middle-aged migrant worker, before boarding the Puri-Okha Express, one of the longest train journeys in India—transporting hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from coastal Odisha to Gujarat. Surat has been one of the world’s fastest growing cities of the past four decades, with annual population growth rates exceeding 6%, and over 70% of the city’s workforce today is sourced from outside. Its diamond polishing industry absorbs labour from a few districts of Saurashtra (within the state of Gujarat) as trust is a key component of the business and labour recruitment is mediated through strong caste networks. The other major industry is synthetic textiles which churn out most of the sarees worn by Indian women, amid the deafening clanging of powerlooms in small-scale industrial units.