State-Migrant Relations in India: Internal Migration, Welfare Rights and COVID-19

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2 Citations (SciVal)


Through a multi-sited ethnographic study of 30 internal migrants working in informal occupations in Delhi, I show that the everyday lived experience of these migrants in India is negotiated by multiple and often intersecting forms of inequalities and exclusion. To that end, I give an overview of their efforts to access available social welfare schemes. Their interactions with street-level bureaucrats and the paperwork (such as an Aadhaar card or a ration card) required to access welfare schemes show how their mobility is restricted, compelling them to enter into a relationship of dependency with brokers, employers and others. The article explicitly centres on state-migrant relations and provides tools to understand the efficacy of social welfare policies in contemporary Indian bureaucratic transformations. It reveals the multitude of complex factors that motivate workers to move and find work that must be acknowledged in any administrative effort to ensure access to rights and legal aid. In doing so, the article also raises pertinent questions on the move towards digitisation and the creation of a central database of migrant workers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-256
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Change
Issue number2
Early online date13 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

The author received no financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.


  • migration
  • workers
  • informal economy
  • India
  • COVID-19
  • state welfare


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