Social Scientist. v 11, no. 122 (July 1983) p. 58.


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Migrants in a City: A Case of Dhodia Tribals

THERE is a large body of literature on migration and urbanisation in India. This literature mostly deals with the rate and volume of migration, patterns of adjustment of the migrants in the urban setting, and the impact of urban institutions etc. Useful as these details are, certain key questions regarding migration and urbanisation are as yet not adequately explored. Some of these questions are: What is the socio-economic background of the migrants? How does the socio-economic background affect or influence their participation in the urban industrial economy?

Broadly, the studies hitherto have held steadfastly to certain untested notions or assumptions. One such assumption is that all migrants belong to a relatively homogeneous socio-economic category. Another dominant assumption is that all migrants face a more or less uniform set of situations (i e, opportunities or disabilities). We also sometimes come across references to 'success' stories of the migrants in the city. Reasons for this 'success' are sought in the realm of culture or personality. In other words, what is highlighted is the individual's ability to move up the ladder regardless of obstacles. In my view, such a description or approach fails to observe the persistence of certain general tendencies. Such tendencies are: competitive economy (and also dualism) in the urban labour market; occupational divisions which are dependent upon the educational achievements which in turn are dependent upon the economic position of the family; and processes of social stratification dividing the urban population into rich, not-so rich and poor.

The present paper is an attempt to build-up a case for studying migrants from the vantage point of their class status in the urban society and for locating the linkage between their present status and their past statjus in the rural society from which they migrated. The community we concentrate on is called Dhodias. They are members of the scheduled tribe. Numerically, they are the third largest with a population of 3.6 lakhs in Gujarat state. They are mainly distributed in two districts of south Gujarat: (i) Valsad district with a population of 2.9 lakhs and (ii) Surat district with a population of 66, 231. Together, Dhodias constitute 10 per cent of S T population in Gujarat. Of the total Dhodia population, 31,376 (8.8 per cent) live in the urban areas. In Surat city which is a premier industrial centre in the south Gujarat region live 9,598 Dhodias or about 1,600



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