Sah and Shah (2003) have established that incidence of poverty in Southwestern tribal belt is alarmingly high. About three-fifths of the households in this tribal belt are categorised as chronic poor. A large part of chronic poverty is due to access failure to production resources: population pressure and declined landholdings; recurring droughts and access failure to land-based livelihood; lack of off-farm employment avenues and consumption loan from moneylender result in a debt-trap that pulls people into chronic poverty. Seasonal migration in this tribal belt is regarded as an essential coping mechanism especially in response to a shock, including crop failure, son's marriage, serious sickness et cetera. The objective of this paper is to analyse the observations relating to seasonal migration from two villages, Pospur and Kirchali, of Badwani district of Southwestern tribal belt of Madhya Pradesh (1). We have tried to establish, in this paper, that (i) a shock can induce a complex socio-economic process like access failure to food, debt-trap and depletion of assets, short-term land transactions, withdrawal of children from school and migration; (ii) all location and households do not respond in the same pattern; for some, migration means livelihood option, for others it means savings, asset formation and technology transfer; (iii) locational disadvantage in a shock can be overcome by investment in agriculture. We have used both qualitative and quantitative methods in data collection. The qualitative data provided understanding on extent and patterns of migration and its consequences, which were developed using wealth ranking exercise, case studies and group discussions. The quantitative data were generated for 84 sample households that provide information relating to incidence and intensity of seasonal migration, income and saving from migration and the correlates of migration.
A voluminous literature is available explaining migration that mirrors the discipline and ideological underpinnings of the researcher. Although sociologist like Lee (1966) conceptualised migration as the play of negative and positive forces that respectively pushes a migrant from the place of origin to migrate and pulls him to the place of destination, neoclassical constructs dominated the explanations. Locating migration decisions at the household level and arguing that such decisions are based on opportunities and constraints that the households face, the neoclassical theorists propagated human capital theory (Sjaastad: 1962; Todaro: 1969, 1980). This construct argued that inclination to migrate is determined by difference in income between source and destination of migration, and may result in equating expected income. Given their skills, decisions about where to live are based on where individuals can optimise the present value of their discounted stream of expected future earnings. Migration according to Saxena (1977) may be motivated by a desire to seek skill and leads to development, urbanisation and socio-economic transformation. In the same ween, Stark (1980) identifies transaction cost, imperfect information and imperfect credit, land and labour markets as main determinants of migration. On the other hand, researches driven by Marxist ideology (Breman: 1985; Olsen & Murthy: 2000) identified structural constraints of capitalist system as main source of exploitation of migrant labours. In absence of alternatives, in extreme cases, monopoly creditor also becomes a monopsony buyer of migrant's labour (Olsen & Murthy: 2000). But the recognition that seasonal migration also provides a respite from interlocked credit, land and labour transactions were never missing. Breman (1985) also shows that while for resource poor, migration is a coping mechanism that provides means for debt servicing, for the well-endowed it increases households' earnings, creditworthiness and ability to manage crisis. …