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IndiaSpend policy analyst at work gathering data and life stories of migrants in Mumbai.


A shout out to journalists, ethnographers, anthropologists, demographers, other social scientists.


Do you have ideas for research about changing India? Questions of public interest that have not been addressed or fallen through the cracks of academic research and cannot be adequately addressed through conventional journalism? From inter-religious marriages to contraceptive methods, our ambit is wide.


We are looking for proposals that combine a clear big-picture perspective (why this is important); a primary data-collection and fieldwork plan; and an explanation of the kind of human stories (narratives/photographs/videos) you will use to give life to the data.


You can either plan the research yourself or let us put you in touch with relevant associates or assistants from academic institutions (from business schools to journalism schools). We could consider funding–if it isn’t expensive–or we could organise a collaboration with wealthier organisations.


If you are an academic and feel unsure about the narratives, we will try to team you up with a writer. If you are a writer and would rather not get into the data gathering but have an idea that you would like to investigate, you can do it yourself or ask for research assistance.


Here is the first series of stories that resulted from primary data collection:


In Mumbai, Marathwada Migrants Rise Above Poverty Line


A migrant from Maharashtra’s drought-stricken Marathwada region triples her income—if temporarily—after moving to Mumbai, climbs out of poverty and can repay loans, but families must live in 40 sq ft homes, the size of a large carpet, according to an IndiaSpend survey of 60 migrant families. Each adult in these families earned Rs 1,823 per person per month—about 80% more than the official urban poverty line of Rs 1,000 per person per month—within four months of migrating to Mumbai, our survey revealed. Most are farm workers in their villages and work at construction and municipal-infrastructure sites in India’s financial capital. Back home in Nanded in Marathwada, 600 km to the east, each person earned Rs 569 per month, 30% below the rural poverty line of Rs 819 per person per day.


Short Of Land, Water, Education; Not Aspiration: Babban’s Story


Our exploration of the life of Babban Chavan–second of a three-part investigation of the life of Marathwada migrants–his family and others like them in Ghatkopar reveals how a flood of drought-hit migrants are unprepared for modern jobs. No more than a fourth are educated beyond seventh standards, making migration a vital part of their survival. But their existence at the bottom of the pyramid does not stop their aspirations. We found six of 10 migrants owned mobile phones (but only 5% use smartphones).


Rural Jobs Collapse In 2016 Fuels Migration: Yashodabai’s Story


The story of Yashodabai Rathod is the story of hundreds of migrants who journeyed 600 km from their village in southeast Maharashtra to Mumbai when the rains failed. It is in situations of distress like these that the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act–which the World Bank in 2013 called a “stellar” example of rural development–was meant to offer an alternative to migration. But with a world’s largest make-work programme enmeshed in a corruption scandal in her area, and with no more than 782 people getting wages, compared to 45,800 two years ago, Rathod and her people had no choice but to leave home. The last of our three-part survey and investigation into the lives of drought-hit migrants.


Interested? Write to: samar@indiaspend.org