By Pramila Krishnan
India is a country made up of many countries – a statement often made in discussions about India and migration.
Studies show that three out of 10 Indians are internal migrants. A search for work, for a better life or for marriage are the most common reasons behind such migration.
Parents seeking better educational opportunities for their children is also a factor. Generally it is people from the most vulnerable and marginalised communities who have been forced to migrate.
Millions move each year – many from the countryside to the city where they think they will find jobs and a better life. Many have to cope with different cultural traditions: for such people it feels like a move to a foreign land.
India is also a magnet for immigrants from other smaller neighbouring countries who are escaping poverty and political unrest. It has become a homeland for hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis, Nepalese, Pakistanis and other nationalities.
Particularly for Sri Lankan Tamils, India is viewed as a second motherland but the relationship with Bangladesh is more difficult. A fence along the 2,500-mile border between the two countries has been built by the Indian government to keep out migrants, though this has not stopped the most determined getting through. Estimates of Bangladeshis who have crossed into India illegally over the years range from four to 20 million but no one is sure of the exact number.
Yet despite the tension caused by such movements – and periodic outbreaks of violence between peoples of different cultural or religious backgrounds – India is in many ways a migration success story. Since independence in 1947 the many different states in India and the multiple languages and customs have been woven into the fabric of the world’s largest democracy, with at least 2,000 ethnic groups united in their diversity.
One of the major problems for government agencies and journalists charting migration is a lack of up-to-date information. The numbers run into millions. The government has no accurate figures of where people come from – or where they travel to. It is also often hard to differentiate between internal migrants and those from neighbouring countries: to local people all strangers might appear foreign.
This article is taken from the Ethical Journalism Network's report 'Moving Stories - International Review of How Media Cover Migration'
Read the press release here: Migration: Global Report on Journalism's Biggest Test in 2015
Read the full report here: Moving Stories - International Review of How Media Cover Migration
About the author
Pramila Krishnan, based in Chennai, Southern India, hosts a weekly show on TV News 7 Tamil that focuses on social issues. She also works on film documentaries and on current affairs news stories. Primila has contributed to a number of newspapers and magazines in the southern India region, mainly writing on social and environmental issues. She is a regular contributor to Climate News Network, a web based news agency. www.climatenewsnetwork.
Read the other sections of the report here