The Bengal Migration in Comparative Perspective

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Economics


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Description The preliminary findings from the study are summarised below:

(i) Immigrants from Bangladesh arrived in the study district in almost equal numbers both before and after the watershed-year of 1971. Prior to 1971, such cross-border migrants were labelled as Displaced Persons (DPs), while those who entered after this time are deemed 'illegal' migrants. The latter have neither been able to claim refugee status nor rehabilitation assistance from government-sponsored package schemes, unlike the DPs who had arrived before them.

(ii) The registered migrant colonies reveal a composite population of old, new and illegal migrants, validating the Network Theory of migration, with later migrants finding it less difficult to settle within colonies that were established by an earlier migrant population.

(iii) Following Moser and Ellis, the rehabilitation of migrants involves the acquisition of assets for enhancing well-being. In this study, land was the most important physical asset that could be formally acquired through the rehabilitation packages offered in the registered colonies. All migrants settled in registered colonies had acquired land titles, hence there was no pressing need to change their agricultural occupations. In contrast, the later and illegal migrants who encountered more hardship during their resettlement. Livestock holdings consequently became an important asset for supplementary income.

(iv) Unlike early urban migrants from East Bengal who settled in major West Bengal cities, most rural migrant families arrived in Uttar Dinajpur with limited education and limited material resources. Many among them, including migrant women, possessed superior cultivation skills and also skill in traditional caste-based artisanal crafts and trades, which they then deployed in securing economic rehabilitation. However, because of their limited access to formal sources of employment, they had to depend disproportionately on informal occupations. During their process of economic adaptation, these migrants have thus also contributed to occupational diversification in the district.

(v) Old village, caste and kinship networks have played a significant role in aiding cross-border resettlement. These have been a source of both information about probable destinations and psychological and social support. Fellow villagers and kinfolk who had migrated successfully earlier have also been able to protect new arrivals from harassment by the authorities and from the threat of deportation.

(vi) Exercising growing leverage over the accommodative social and political environment in their new home district, the migrant communities have consistently outdone the indigenous residents in all spheres of economic, social and political achievement. Children from migrant families have also outdone their local peers in terms of educational achievement.

(vii) Illegal migrant families have preferred step migration, with an adult male migrating initially. Once he establishes an earning avenue for himself, purchases homestead land and constructs a house, the family disposes of whatever immovable property it holds at its original place of settlement, and migrates as a group.
Description University Assisted Project
Amount रू 100,000 (INR)
Organisation North Bengal University 
Sector Academic/University
Country India
Start 04/2014 
End 03/2015
Description Rehabilitation and Development Needs: A Case Study of Cross-border Migration in Uttar Dinajpur 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Paper presented at SAP-DRS-Phase II National Seminar on 'Regional Issues Concerning Development and Women in Development', on 20-21 March, 2012 at UGC.

After the seminar, there has been a request for writing a paper on this topic, and also future activity on this theme.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012