In 2017, a total of 1,346,000 new displacements were recorded, with the majority linked to disasters, much like previous years. This occurred particularly due to flooding from the monsoon season. Bihar was one of the areas that was the most affected, with about 855,000 new displacements in this state alone. Conflict also contributed to new displacement, with 78,000 new displacements recorded throughout the year, the majority linked to border clashes in Jammu and Kashmir. At the end of 2017 there were an estimated 806,000 people still displaced due to conflict.   

In the first half of 2018, most of the new displacements were linked to disasters, with monsoon floods leading to 373,000 new displacements between late May and June. There were also more than 166,000 new displacements linked to conflict, the majority occurring in the context of cross-border shelling in Jammu and Kashmir state. For more information see the Mid-Year Figures

Latest new displacements
Risk of future displacement

Average expected number of displacements per year – for sudden-onset hazards:

IDMC uses information about the probability of future hazard scenarios to model displacement risk based on probable housing destruction. Find out how we calculate our metrics here and explore the likelihood of future displacement around the world here.

What causes displacement?

India has the highest level of displacement associated with disasters in South Asia in absolute terms. Small-scale protracted conflicts also drive displacement, but to a much lesser extent. Many case studies examine displacement associated with development projects, a potentially significant issue given the country’s rapid economic growth and urbanisation, but data is hard to come by.    

India is exposed to a range of natural hazards. Around 68 per cent of the country is prone to drought, 60 per cent to earthquakes and 75 per cent of the coastline is vulnerable to cyclones and tsunamis. These physical factors combine with the country’s high population density, poverty levels, rapid urbanisation and environmental degradation to make it the country most at risk of damage and displacement associated with disasters in South Asia. 

Areas on the east coast are vulnerable to tropical storms and cyclones that form in the Bay of Bengal, while northern states bordering Nepal and Pakistan experience frequent seismic activity. Most of the country is affected by monsoon rains, but highly flood-prone areas include the Brahmaputra, Ganges and Meghna river basins in the Indo-Gangetic plain in the north and north-east. 

Major events in recent years include monsoon flooding in 2016, which particularly affected the states of Bihar and Assam, triggering 1,670,000 and 495,000 new displacements respectively. Tropical cyclone Komen hit West Bengal and Manipur in 2015 and triggered 506,000. The majority of new displacements in 2017 were also the result of monsoon floods, which triggered 1,344,000 new displacements across eight states. Bihar, where 855,000 evacuations took place, was worst-affected.

Displacement associated with conflict is also a regular occurrence, but it can be complex to track and obtain comprehensive data on because conflicts are often very localised. They are largely linked to identity and ethnicity. The main long-standing conflicts revolve around ongoing clashes in disputed Kashmir, separatism in the north-eastern states and the Naxalite-Maoist insurgency in the so-called “red corridor” of central and eastern states, predominantly Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Localised violence such as the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots can also quickly lead to significant displacement. 

Displacement in Jammu and Kashmir has been driven by ongoing clashes near the line of control between Indian and Pakistani-administered areas. After years of uneasy peace following a ceasefire in 2003, tensions flared in late 2016 after protests on the Indian side led to cross-border raids by the Indian military and a subsequent militant attack on an army base in India. Regular shelling began and continued into 2017, leading to 70,000 new displacements. 

Development projects also have the potential to displace large numbers of people. These include dams, mines, industrial plants, urban renewal and environmental conservation projects. We conducted a study in 2016 which found that the risk of displacement is significant because large-scale land acquisitions can aggravate ethnic and religious tensions and lead to conflict over land access and use

It is difficult to obtain comprehensive data on this topic, but a study by the Housing and Land Rights Network estimates that as many as 260,000 people were displaced as a result of evictions to make way for a range of development projects in 2017 alone. Preliminary results from our own analysis of resettlement plans for initiatives funded by the World Bank between 2014 and 2016 found that 11,000 people were at risk of becoming displaced across 11 different projects. This figure is likely to be a significant underestimate.

Where and how do people move? 

The states worst affected by disasters in recent years include Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Odisha and eastern Uttar Pradesh. Displacement associated with disasters such as riverine and flash floods tends to be large-scale but short-lived. Such hazards are seasonal and recurrent, and many states are affected every year. IDPs’ exact locations and movements are not usually documented, but the majority tend to stay with family or friends. Relatively few seek shelter in state-run relief camps. 

Many of the people living in protracted displacement as result of conflict are in the northern states of Jammu and Kashmir and Assam. Most in Jammu and Kashmir have been displaced since the 1990s, and in Assam since 2014. Others have fled to Delhi or have been displaced within or to Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Nagaland, Telangana, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh. The majority live in camps, including informal ones, while others live in rented accommodation or homes bought with financial compensation from the government. Return is obstructed by ongoing insecurity, hostility between groups and unresolved housing and land disputes. No data is available on the exact location and length of displacement. 

Displacement associated with development projects affects all corners of the country, but little quantitative data exists. Some IDPs may be included in resettlement programmes, but the suitability of the programmes and their new locations is often unknown. Many people who were not resettled end up living in informal settlements in large urban centres, or moving in with nearby relatives. Some return if projects do not materialise. 

What is life like for IDPs and communities hosting them? 

The fate of people displaced in India constitutes a significant information gap, particularly for those who do not live in formal camps or resettlement areas. No comprehensive humanitarian assessment of IDPs’ needs has been conducted at the national level. Profiling exercises, however, show that some socially excluded communities such as scheduled castes, indigenous groups and religious minorities are often disproportionally at risk of becoming displaced, and may be propelled further into poverty and marginalisation as a result. 

Women and girls displaced by conflict are often vulnerable to gender-based violence, and struggle to access healthcare, education, livelihoods and legal remedies. This can be aggravated by the fact that IDPs often leave behind or lose identity cards, sometimes as a result of confiscation or violence, which obstructs their access to social security. 

People displaced by development tend not benefit from the projects they are forced to make way for. Only a minority receive assistance, which is often inadequate to restart their lives. People who have been resettled report a range of challenges, including tenure insecurity, inadequate housing, absence of basic services, lack of safety for women and children and limited livelihood opportunities.

Where does the data on displacement come from and what are the main challenges?

Collecting comprehensive data on displacement in India is a challenge. Displacement associated with conflict is politically sensitive, and very few international organisations collect data on it. Some people displaced by conflict, particularly those living in protracted displacement, have essentially become “invisible”. We gather most of the data for our estimates from local media sources and studies conducted by local NGOs, and the figures we compile are likely to be underestimates. 

The huge scale of displacement associated disasters brings a different set of challenges. People displaced by disasters tend to stay with family or friends, which makes them difficult to locate and count. Data on shelter usage does exist, but disaster responses are organised at the state level and there is no national data sharing system. However, while displacement-specific data is still a challenge to obtain, data on disaster losses and accounting is more developed, with certain states such as Tamil Nadu or Orissa following the Desinventar system. In addition, a new nation-wide disaster loss accounting database will soon be launched, forming a good opportunity for displacement-related data to be integrated. 

There is no comprehensive data on displacement associated with development projects.  Researchers are restricted to analysing media reports and local NGO studies that tend to focus on the largest and most newsworthy development projects. Large funding institutions, such as international and regional development banks, often produce feasibility studies and resettlement plans before carrying out a project, but these discuss the number of people at risk of displacement, compensation and resettlement options. There is very little follow-up once a project has been completed to determine the number of people actually displaced.  As such, figures for this type of displacement can only be considered indicative, and are inevitably significant underestimates. 

Latest GRID confidence assessment
Displacement type New Displacement (Flow) IDPs (Stock)
Reporting units
Media monitoring
Media monitoring
Geographical disaggregation Subnational - admin 1 Subnational - admin 1
Geographical coverage Partial coverage Partial coverage
Frequency of reporting Other Other
Disaggregation on sex No No
Disaggregation on age No No
Data triangulation Some local triangulation Some local triangulation
Data on settlement elsewhere No No
Data on returns No No
Data on local integration No No
Data on deaths No No
Data on births No No

Latest figures analysis

IDMC’s estimates for India are considered conservative, based mainly on media reports, as there is a lack of systematic monitoring of conflict displacement in the country and limited access to affected areas. Displacement in India was typically related to border skirmishes with Pakistan, along with some civil unrest and communal tensions. However, due to the fluid and ongoing nature of displacement in the country, it is believed that only a small proportion of IDPs returned home by the end of the year.

Download GRID extended figures analysis (PDF, 333 KB)

Latest GRID stock figure by year of data update

What are governments currently doing to prevent and respond to displacement? 

India is one of the only countries in the world to have recognised the risks and impacts of displacement associated with development by drafting specific policies and legal frameworks on the issue.  The 2004 National Policy on Resettlement and Rehabilitation for Project Affected Families was updated in 2007 and became the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy. It aims to reduce large-scale displacement associated with development projects, ensure adequate resettlement and recovery packages are implemented, and improve communication and cooperation between development planners and affected families.

Protection for people displaced by development projects was enshrined in law in 2013 via a landmark piece of legislation entitled The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act (LARR). This went further than previous policies by introducing the legal power of prior consent or refusal and land acquisitions by affected families, the possibility of market transactions for the transfer of land, improved compensation rates and greater institutional capacity for resettlement and recovery.

India also has legislation relevant to displacement associated with disasters. The 2016 National Disaster Management Plan was developed in accordance with the provisions of the 2005 Disaster Management Act and guidance given in the 2009 National Policy on Disaster Management, along with other established national practices. It provides guidance on all phases of the disaster management cycle in line with the Sendai Framework’s approach. The country also has a National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).

Related material