Migration is an integral part of human existence where people move from one politically well defined area to another. The movement may vary from temporary/circulatory to relatively permanent nature and involves change in residence between two places. Although several propositions have put forward to explain why people move, the ‘push-pull’ paradigm remains to be dominant. That is migration is primarily from peasant based/economically depressed areas to industrialized zones or from peripheral to core areas.

Based on primary survey in the slums of Kolkata, the present study reveals that poor migrants are mainly drawn from economically depressed areas of West Bengal and Bihar. The migrants primarily belong to lower strata of the society and are dominantly illiterate or informally educated. Although, these people find work for major part of the year, a large number of them are self-employed. Wherever, they are into regular salaried jobs, the migrants are engaged in petty manufacturing, factory workers, retail trade, hotels and restaurants, transport sector and as domestic maids, all of which promise scant upward mobility. Additionally, working hours are too long – ranging from 8 to 16-17 hours in a day. The workers suffer from various labour market issues like insecurity of jobs, late and non-payment of wages, intermittent availability of work, absence of job contract and social securities. Additionally, payment in piece-rate basis adds greater flexibility to the employers. Equally miserable is their housing conditions where the migrants reside and work.

The paper suggests that the poor migrants mostly find employment in the informal sector of the city’s economy. Yet, they dispense important functions to the city dwellers in terms of security guards, domestic servants, drivers, barring which a city life is difficult to imagine.

The paper is an outcome of research conducted under SHRAMIC (Strengthen and Harmonize Research and Action on Migration in Indian Context), an Initiative supported by Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and the Allied Trusts.

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