New Delhi: Every year, millions of Indians leave their villages and move to cities. This migration is primarily driven by the search for better jobs but also by education and marriage. The positive impacts of this migration on the rural economy, through remittances, is well-documented—but how does migration affect the social dynamics of the village? According to a new study by Amita Bhide and others published in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics, while large-scale out-migration improves a village’s standard of living, it does not disrupt its social structure.

To show this, the authors explore in detail the impact of large scale out-migration from Kunkeri, a village in Maharashtra’s Konkan region and a historical hotspot for out-migration, especially to Mumbai. The authors conduct an ethnographic survey in 2017 and compare the results with data from the 1961 and 1987 censuses.

They find that, over the years, migration has increased steadily, but also become more diverse in terms of caste, gender and occupation. Lower castes are catching up with the upper castes in terms of migration while women are also migrating more. In terms of occupation, migrants are now seeking more jobs in the private sector and informal sector in the city. All this migration, the authors find, increases the overall standard of living in the village.

However even with these changes, the authors observe that there has been no upheaval in the village’s social structure.

The village’s population distribution, as well as land ownership break-up by caste, has remained consistent. In both 1987 and 2017, over 90% of the village’s land was owned by upper castes. Land sale is practically non-existent and historically marginalized and landless groups such as the Scheduled Castes continue to remain landless. The case of Kunkeri suggests that even large-scale migration and the resulting prosperity it brings may not be enough to reverse historical caste-based inequalities.

Also Read: Mass Migration from Rural India: A Restudy of Kunkeri Village in Konkan, Maharashtra, 1961–1987–2017

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