The story of city slickers and their urbane choices

India’s 469 UAs (urban agglomeration) drew 109 million migrants, of whom 31 million were in five UAs

Shreya Agarwal
Updated23 Aug 2019

Cities keep expanding. One measure of capturing their spread is a geographical unit called urban agglomeration (UA), which includes a town and its outgrowth. India’s 469 UAs drew 109 million migrants, of whom 31 million were in five UAs. A look at UAs in this context.

Where do migrants outnumber locals?

According to the recently released Census 2011 data, the top five UAs by migrant population are Greater Mumbai (9.96 million), Delhi (6.83 million), Kolkata (5.22 million), Hyderabad (4.94 million) and Bengaluru (4.40 million). In three of these UAs, migrants outnumbered people born in the UA itself: Hyderabad, Greater Mumbai and Bengaluru. In Delhi and Kolkata, however, the share of migrants was below 45%. Of the 31 million migrants in these five UAs, a little over half (15.8 million) made the move to the UAs between 2001 and 2011, which underscores the urban shift that has been underway in India.

Do interstate migrants dominate anywhere?

Yes, they do, but only in Delhi, where 91% of migrants were from other states. That’s largely because the national capital, as a Union Territory, is smaller than, for instance, Maharashtra, of which Greater Mumbai is a part. However, this is also a measure of the relative attractiveness of different UAs to migrants, be it in terms of distance, opportunities or preference. For example, 93% of migrants in Hyderabad were from undivided Andhra Pradesh. By comparison, 64% of migrants in Bengaluru were from Karnataka and 53% of migrants in Greater Mumbai came from the home state of Maharashtra.

Which other UAs have a large migrant population?

About 78 million people migrated to the other UAs. Of them, 14.6 million (19%) moved to Chennai, Pune, Surat, Ahmedabad and Ghaziabad. This is an indicator of the second tier of UAs.

How is Rajasthan’s state mix unique?

Home state apart, just one state features among the top 5 for these UAs in migrant share. The state is not Uttar Pradesh or Bihar, but Rajasthan, though it usually slots in fourth or fifth. UP makes a presence in the top 5 states in four UAs, the exception being Bengaluru; Bihar is absent in the top 5 of Hyderabad and Bengaluru. A distance effect is also seen. States that neighbour the UA tend to lead in numbers. For example, there are three southern states in the list of top 5 for Bengaluru, and as many eastern ones for Kolkata.

Which new cities are migrants favouring?

Of the 109 million migrants in UAs, about 4.7 million moved in the year prior to Census 2011. But there was a change in their top 5 destination UAs, reflecting the shifts in attractiveness that define people movement. Chennai and Pune replaced Kolkata and Hyderabad in the top 5 destination UAs. Mumbai (0.47 million) was the top draw that year. Chennai and Bengaluru (0.23 million) were close to Delhi (0.27 million) that came second. is a database and search engine for public data.

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