Nativism in States

Nativism in states
Reading time: 9 minutes

The Corona pandemic since it hit the world has been successful not only in exposing the sorry state of health systems around the world but also able to put some hard questions to policymakers about issues of polity, society, and economy. India’s case has been no different than the others. In India, the pandemic and its impact has been most starkly visible in the long march of migrants to their native states for the lack of livelihood opportunities in the migrated cities and states. As this is the response of migrants, the host states are grappling with economic issues of slowdown and unemployment. And once again, many states have sought to answer those questions with old strategies, one of which is nativism

Nativism in States

What is Nativism?

  • Nativism is the policy of protecting the interests of native-born or established inhabitants against those of immigrants.
  • It bases its theory on the concept of sons of soil which means that the native-born people must have the first right over resources and opportunities in a state.
  • It is a kind of protectionist regime within the country among different states.

Why Nativism is in news now?

  • Recently, the Madhya Pradesh government announced that only those domiciled in MP will be eligible for government jobs in the state.
  • This was in the context of pandemic induced unemployment and already scarce jobs
  • Many other states are expected to follow the route as right now there is no certain economic plan as to how to tackle the pandemic-induced slowdown in the economy in immediate future. The Center’s Atmanirbhar Bharat is largely a long-term plan to make India self-reliant.
  • It is not true that the pandemic is the only reason for such a nativist turn. Many states in recent times have followed the same path in the face of public discontent over unemployment.
  • Gujarat, back in 1995, introduced 85% reservation for locals but the provision was never enforced.
  • Maharashtra in 2008 introduced 80% reservation for locals in industries that seek state incentives and tax reliefs.
  • Tamil Nadu last year announced to ensure at least 50% reservation in jobs for residents of the state.
  • MP government brought in such provision a few years ago also when it decided to incentives to industries if 70% or more of their workforce is local people.

Is nativism only an economic concept?

  • Nativism though finds expression most consistently in economic context certainly has other dimensions.
  • The Son of Soil theory is mainly based on cultural context. Such as Maharashtra is said to belong to Marathi speakers first and foremost, Karnataka belongs to Kannadigas.
  • Another important example of nativism was seen in the 1980s when students of Assam led a movement against alleged Bengali domination over Assamese culture and economy which further expanded to anti-illegal immigration from Bangladesh. The result is the ongoing exercise of the National Registry of Citizens for Assam.
  • In Erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state too, there was a clause for permanent residents of states. The permanent residents were given special rights in jobs, property rights etc. both these examples were nativism based in cultural context.
  • Some areas, such as scheduled and tribal areas have constitutional protection regarding their resources because of distinct cultural aspects.

How this nativism is to be implemented?

  • There are regional variations in the mechanism and criteria in implementing such policies.
  • Some states require a certain proficiency in the local language to be employed in government jobs.
  • As discussed above the erstwhile J&K state had special provisions for permanent residents.
  • Tribal areas are governed by special provisions where President or governor concerned have special powers to administer such areas/states.
  • Most of the states as seen above incentivize industries to prefer locals in employment.

What are the reasons for the rise of nativism?

  • The developmental disparities among states especially between the northern states who are relatively underdeveloped and middle and southern states who are relatively more developed and industrialized.
  • Migration to some extent eats into resources and opportunities of host states and if the economic situation of the state worsens for any reason, the migrant population becomes an easy target for natives.
  • The liberalization and dearth of government jobs pushes the population towards the private sector. As there is a gap in industrialization among states, migration occurs in the regions of industrialization and ample job opportunities.
  • Apart from industries, high growing service sector of industrialized states can absorb this large migration.
  • But in recent times, especially since the beginning of the 21st century, the phenomenon of jobless growth has grappled the Indian economy. There is a dearth of new job creation in every sector.
  • In addition to this, the 2008 economic crisis and slowdown made industries lose critical business and capital which resulted in cost cuts and lay-offs. There has been sluggish job creation since then.
  • This has created pressures on existing jobs and hence the competition among the job seekers.
  • Plus, recent years have seen the twin balance sheet issue and rise in the cost of capital made industrial growth stagnat So, youth that is newly joining the labor force is not getting sufficient jobs.
  • When there is no concrete solution for the immediate future for such problems, politicization Regional and nowadays, national political parties to are milking this discontent for their political benefits. The migration issue has been used for vote bank politics.

Is migration a cause of economic issues in the states?

  • Migration has been an important demographic issue in India since independence. But if we see the data in recent years, it shows a different picture.
  • Take the case of Mumbai, which is frequently a location of nativism stir. As per the census 2011, the migration rate grew sluggishly from 2001 to 2011. As per 1991 census data, around 21% of the city’s population was migrant from other states. The number was around 26.4% according to the 2001 census and only grew by 1% during the next decade to 27.6%.
  • The 2011 census also shows that much of migration to big cities is intra-state rather than inter-state. It also shows that work-related migration to the urban areas only 10% of the urban workforce which shows the hollowness of a cry of migrants taking local jobs.
  • In Gujarat, while political parties press for a domicile quota of 85% in the private sector workforce whereas, in reality, government data shows that in 2017, 92% of private employees were locals only.

Why migration is important?

  • As against popular belief nowadays, migration fuels the growth and helps in the development of both, native and host regions.
  • Internal migration is one of the surest paths to economic development. As people move across sub-national boundaries, they create a healthy pool of labor force for industries.
  • Due to increased industrialization, host states get better infrastructure, better critical facilities such as hospitals, education etc.
  • Migration fulfills a market demand created by gaps in skills and preferences. It transfers manpower to the demand area.
  • Migration helps in improving the per capita income of migrants and helps in improvement in human capital indicators such as health, education, and life expectancy.
  • They help increase the gross state domestic product of host states and remittances of native states.

What are the issues with nativism?

  • According to Pronab Sen, former chairman of the National Statistical Commission, incentives to industries for reservation of jobs for locals add fiscal costs on states.
  • According to Ila Patnaik, nativism, and government incentives to only affects the country’s economic integration.
  • Nativism will reduce the labor market into various fragments. It will lead to lesser labor rights and fragmentation of the labor force into regional blocs.
  • Nativism hinders skill development as a lack of effective competition among skilled and unskilled labor force makes skill development stagnant and creates a mismatch between industry requirements and available skill in the labor pool.
  • Nativism will increase costs of production for industries as a limited labor pool will increase labor costs and it will decrease profits and consequent capital investment.
  • Nativism is essentially a political tool which diverts attention from real issues for unnecessary confrontation and creates law and order issues.
  • Nativism threatens the constitutional provisions of freedom of movement and residence under article 19.
  • It also threatens fundamental right under article 16 which guarantees no birthplace-based discrimination in public employment.
  • Nativism creates animosity between different states of India and threatens national integration as people of different states tend to be confrontationist.

What is the way forward?

  • Nativism was a potent tool during the freedom struggle but after independence, we have decided to grow as a nation. In this national development and integration project, petty nativism is a hindrance.
  • It is important to understand the real cause of discontent and try to find a solution for that.
  • We have large developmental disparities between the states. Policies for even development will provide within the states only.
  • For developmental disparities to go away, there needs to be a large infrastructure investment in underdeveloped states to bring industries to them.
  • The UDAN scheme, the Bharatmala project, and the national optical fiber Mission are important steps in the right direction.
  • In the last few years, there has been a sluggish industrial growth. It is important to correct this issue as more industrialization will create more jobs and lessen the competition.
  • The Finance Commission must be given proper terms of reference to distribute fruits of development fairly among the states. As seen from subsequent Finance commission formulae, the richer states contribute more to the revenue but get less than deserved pool of money. This creates a feeling of injustice and resulting nativism.
  • Politicians must understand that fueling nativism is harmful to the nation and one must not threaten national integration for the sake of political benefits.
  • Frequent meetings of the National integration Council and Interstate Council must happen to negate such tendencies so that state governments and central government synergize their attempts to tackle unemployment and economic growth.


Nativism is a cultural aspect where people assert their cultural uniqueness. But in recent times it has had spillover effects in politics and the economy. It is a threat to social harmony and law and order of the nation. It is important to diagnose real issues of the rise of nativism and affect a better economy and administration to create ample opportunities.

Practice Question for Mains

Do you think nativism has acquired economic and political dimensions in recent times? Substantiate (200 words)

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