The main source for the study of internal migration in India is provided by the decennial population census. In each census since 1881, a question has been asked from each person about his/ her place of birth.

The reply to this question provides the basis for an analysis of internal migration in India. In the 1961, 1971 and the 1981 census operations, the scope of the enquiry was widened.

In the 1961 census, in addition to collecting information on the place of birth with reference to rural-urban residence, information on the duration of residence at the place of enumeration was also collected.

In 1971, a question on the place of last residence was asked in addition to the question on the place of birth with reference to rural-urban residence.


Information regarding the district and the State of the birth place was also collected in the 1971 census. In the 1981 census, the questions on migration were further expanded to elicit reasons for migration.

Since 1951, the National Sample Survey has contributed substantially to the study of migration.

Levels and Trends of Internal Migration in India

The findings based on the place-of-birth data collected in the 1971 census indicate that, out of 545 million persons in India for whom data on the birth place are available, 375 million (68.80 per cent) were immobile, in the sense that they were enumerated at their places of birth, whether these were villages, towns or cities.


The percentages of the immobile population in rural and urban areas in 1971 were 71.85 per cent and 64.81 per cent respectively.These statistics indicate that a little more than two-thirds of the Indian population had not moved from their place of birth.

The intra-district, inter-district and inter-State migration pattern in India according to 1971 census has already been discussed in an earlier section.

The life-time migration, tabulated by place of birth separately for males and females, revealed that females predominated among the migrants.

Among the intra-district life-time migrants, the population of female migrants was 76.00 per cent; among the inter district life-time migrants, it was 62.95 per cent; and among the inter-State life-time migrants, it was 49.55 per cent.


It may, therefore, be concluded that, as the scope of migratory movement’s increases, the percentage of female migrants among the total migrant’s decreases, and that female migration is to a greater extent short-distance migration.

The large percentage of short-distance female migration is mainly due to marriage. According to social; customs, a bride is generally selected from another village, and; this leads to a heavy short-distance migration of females in India.

This finding has been confirmed by several other Indian studies. The findings of the 1961 census were also similar, the percentage of females among the intra-district, inter-district and inter-State migrants being 75.3, 61.4 and 46.3 respectively.

A survey of rural migration in India carried out by the National Sample Survey in 1958-59 (Fourteenth Round) indicated that, among the various reasons for female migration, marriage was the most important, with nearly 85 per cent of female migrants in rural area migrating for reason of marriage.


The fact that the Indian population has been virtually immobile has been borne out by the results of several census operations. In the 1961 census, about 68.6 per cent of the population was enumerated at the place of birth, indicating that only 31.4 per cent had moved from their place of birth.

The percentage of life­time migrants was found to have slightly decreased to 29.5 in the 1971 census. It may be pointed out here that a large number migrants move only short distances, that is, they move from place to another within their own district.

In the 1971 census, 45 per cent of the total population and 65.84 per cent of the mi population were born outside the district of enumeration; corresponding percentages in the 1961 census were 20.94 and 67

Earlier census operations from 1891 to 1931 indicated the percentage of persons enumerated in a State or a different from the one in which they were born was almost s ranging between 3.3 and 3.8.


The 1961 and the 1971 operations, indicated that these percentages were 3.3 and respectively. This means that the picture of inter-State migration has not changed in India over the years.

According to King Davis, the following factors have been mainly responsible for immobility of the Indian population: Predominance of agriculture the caste system, early marriage and the joint family system diversity of languages and culture, lack of education, etc.

Inter-State Migration in the Indian States

During 1961 and 1961-71 Based on Place of Birth Data: The study inter-State migration in India is fraught with problems because the boundary changes which have taken place during the periods.


Some demographers have overcome these difficulties adjustment of various types of migration and have tried to estimate the inter-State migration in India.

The estimates of net migration in the States of India during1951-1961 have yielded the following results.

1. West Bengal

2. Maharashtra

3. Delhi

4. Madhya Pradesh

5. Assam

6. Punjab

7. Mysore (Karnataka)

8. Gujarat

During 1951-1961, heavy net migration was observed to W Bengal, Maharashtra, Delhi, and Madhya Pradesh. West Bengal net gain was of nearly 2.8 million populations and that Maharashtra 1.0 million.

The estimates of net migration in the Indian States during 1961-1971 have yielded the following results:

When the two periods, that is 1951-1961 and 1961-1971, are compared for inter-State net migration, it is observed that there has been some change in the pattern of gaining and losing population.

Maharashtra, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, and Gujarat continued as gaining States, though their rank order has changed, with Maharashtra gaining the first rank. Some States like Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Bihar and Tamil Nadu which were losing population due to migration during 1951-1961, became gaining States during 1961-1971.

On the other hand, some gaining States in 1951-1961 like West Bengal, Karnataka (Mysore), Andhra Pradesh became losing States during 1961- 1971.

The case of West Bengal is the most striking. This State gained the largest population due to migration during 1951-1961, but lost population during 1961-1971.

Rural-Urban Migration in India, According to Census

An analysis of State-wise internal migration gives us idea about the main lines of population movement with respect in-migration and out-migration. In any study of internal migration in India, however, it is pertinent to study the various aspect rural-urban movements.

The following four aspects of the movements can become subjects to studies: (1) rural to r migration or rural turnover; (2) rural to urban migration or put pull activity; (3) urban to urban migration or urban turnover; (4) urban to rural migration or reverse push back. Such an anal: has been carried out for the total Indian population for 1971 on basis of the place of birth data.

It was observed that of all the migrants in 1971, the movements for 70.66 per cent were from rural areas to other rural areas.

The percentage of persons born in rural areas and enumeration in urban areas was 14.88, while that of those who had migration from urban areas to other urban areas was 8.75, and of those w had migrated from urban areas to rural areas was 4.88.

Un classification migrants were 0.83 per cent. It is thus clear that migration India is mainly from one rural area to another and that its volume from rural areas to urban areas is comparatively very smart indicating that the pull factor does not seem to be operating very vigorously or may be operating only in the case of metropolis cities.