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UN’s migrant medicine

New Delhi, Oct. 5: Internal migration helps reduce poverty without hurting either the migrants’ place of origin or destination, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has said in its latest human development report.

Governments should facilitate migration, especially within a country, as it helps migrants improve the quality of their lives without giving up any of the benefits that legal citizenship provides, the report released today says.

Facilitating movement of citizens across state and national borders is not contrary to the Indian government’s stand, but the subject remains sensitive especially in metropolitan cities like Mumbai.

“Migration may not be a panacea for any ill, but must be considered by governments while preparing strategies to tackle poverty,” Patrice Coeur-Bizot, the UNDP resident representative in India, said at the launch of the report.

India continues to rank 134 out of 182 countries — it enjoyed the same rank last year, too, though it has improved its human development index (HDI) from 0.556 to 0.612 between 2000 and now.

Among neighbours, Bhutan ranks two spots above India while Sri Lanka is ranked 102. China is ranked 92, up seven places from last year. Pakistan (141), Nepal (144) and Bangladesh (146) are ranked below India.

The HDI is computed on the basis of development parameters, including access to education, basic health, levels of poverty, and per capita gross domestic product (roughly the per capita income).

India, however, ranks 139 out of 155 countries in a gender development index (GDI) also computed by the UNDP. This position “should be a relatively greater concern”, Seeta Prabhu, senior assistant country director of the programme, said.

The GDI aims at capturing the levels of equity between men and women in a country — the lower the index, the greater the disparity.

Studies within India have shown “massive” benefits for those who migrate compared to those who prefer to stay put in their place of origin, Coeur-Bizot said.

Poverty rates fell by half in Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh households, where at least one family member was a migrant, the report states.

Coeur-Bizot argued that UNDP studies for the report busted myths that migration necessarily led to unbearable stress on civic amenities of the destination.

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