Any city with a population density that averages 20,000 per square km at the very least is bound to feel concerned about rising numbers. Post-independence, Mumbai’s population has gone up from roughly 3 million (data: 1951 census) to 4.12 million (1961) and then increased rapidly for the next 30 years: 5.9 mn in 1971, 8.2 mn in 1981 and 9.9 mn in 1991. The last census in 2001 put the figure at 12 million in Greater Mumbai.
However, studies have confirmed that migrants now play a declining role in the growth of population. Data shows the city no longer attracts migrants at the same rate as it used to in the 60’s and 70’s. With the emergence of other urban-industrial hubs across India, the flow of skilled and unskilled labour from other states has reduced.
The first few years after 1947 saw a sharp rise starting with the Partition era which brought Sindhi and Punjabi refugees, who went on to set themselves up with various enterprises. Subsequently the period from 1961 to 1971 and from 1971 to 1981 saw the influx peak at 8.7 lakh and 10.7 lakh migrants respectively.
Since then, census data has shown a decline in the proportion of migrants to the total population — between 1981 and 1991, figures suggest the city saw a mere 2.8 lakh newcomers arrive. Thereafter, migrant population rose by 8 lakh from 1991-2001, but it still remained below the figures recorded between 1971 and 1991.
In many cases, demographers have also pointed to rise in migration on the basis of shifts in ‘Place of Last Residence; thus, migrants who resided in Mumbai and went away for some time before returning to the metropolis form part of the recorded influx. “There are two kinds of migrants — one who is defined on the basis of place of birth, and the other based on the last place of residence. In all the data, migrants are made up of the two categories,’’ said Professor D P Singh, a senior researcher at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
Over the years, there’s also been significant change in the proportion of migrants from various regions. The share of migrants to Mumbai from other districts of Maharashtra has remained more or less constant in the range of 37-41% between 1971 and 2001, and they form the bulk. On the other hand, the percentages of those coming from Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have varied.
Gujarat, which used to account for the largest number of new arrivals from outside the state (15% in the early 70’s), finds its share has declined toabout 10%. Similarly, fewer people from the southern states now choose to make Mumbai their new home. But the flow from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar has increased, up from 19% in 1991 to 24% in 2001.