Tuesday 07 April 2020

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OFFBREAK

Migrants are people; not demons

 

A successful war against migrants is impossibility, treating the flock as enemy is suicidal and holding them in contempt is dehumanizing.



Come elections to the state legislatures or the local self-governing bodies, the politicians pound the anti-migrant drums sowing seeds of mistrust and raising the bogey of local interests and identity. The guns are largely aimed at the poor and marginalized groups. It is a stoic silence when it comes to investors in industrial properties, speculators in agricultural and beach properties and consultants in public projects.  If the genuine concern is of illegalities, the focus should be on blunders and misdemeanors whether of migrants or natives. Getting intoxicated with the anti-migrant alcohol can only provide a false high to the native population and an easy alibi to gloat in the failures by putting a cover on the realities. It is only the positive harnessing of the energies of all that will ensure the economic growth of the state and retain Goa as the region of liberalism, inclusiveness and social harmony.

Domestic migration is around 30% in India on an average. There is seasonal exodus of labor from poverty stricken and drought prone pockets to areas which require unskilled and sweated labor particularly in sectors such as fisheries, mining, construction, plantations and infrastructure. The initial migrants who get stabilized in the migrating state would later choose the options of trade, business, professions and better employment along with their next generation. The GenNext gets assimilated into the lifestyle, language and culture of the locals and vice-versa. This is a concomitant of development and a continuous process with no exceptions found to the contrary. What explains immigration into Goa also elucidates domestic and international emigration of Goans. This evolution is unstoppable, though there could be public policies to provide preferential treatment to local and natives in specific sectors. However, a successful war against migrants is impossibility, treating the flock as enemy is suicidal and holding them in contempt is dehumanizing.

The recent anti-migrant uprising in a coastal South Goa village wherein the migrants were heckled and prevented from carrying on their trade is definitely not a welcome sign for the state. It is a misguided route adopted to ostensibly protect the interests of the locals in certain traditional trades.  Social media is rife with news of Goa turning unsafe due to migrants. Many ‘insiders’ paint the ‘outsiders’ as corrupt, criminals and looters. It is wrong to assume that the state will be free from crime, corruption and burglary if the migrant population is ejected from the territory. A new breed of youth leaders are fishing for political and social space by fomenting anti-migrant sentiments under the guise of guarding regional identity and economic interests of natives. This track will multiply conflict and social tension rather than attempt to solve the problems of the people. If stretched to extremes, it could be a potential source of negative backlash against the emigrants from Goa. We are inviting flare-ups against Goans with such narrow vision and impractical approach to migrant population.

It is true that the migrant population is sharing space with locals in petty trades and business. This is largely visible in the vegetable and fruit markets all over the state. Most of these migrants have become permanent settlers with their children enrolled in schools, colleges and university and the families availing public services just as the native population. Their second generation has made entry into professions, small and medium businesses and government services. Some specific traditional occupations which are considered as forte of natives such as bakery, fish trade and retail trade has invited increased participation of the migrant settlers with locals phasing out for other lucrative and agreeable alternatives. The migrant settlers are providing the required utility services to household sector in the state and exploiting the opportunities wherever there is a vacuum.

Intermittent tensions due to clash of economic interests are understandable and they should be dealt with in business-like fashion rather than singling out competitors for abuse because they happen to be migrants. Such pressures are seen even within locals. There have been instances in the distant past when the traders housed in a Municipal market in South Goa town were up in arms with traders in a newly sprung location christened as the ‘Gandhi market’ holding that in this marketplace there are all sorts of illegalities. Today, the traders from the Gandhi market are enraged over locals from neighboring talukas selling the agricultural produce in the town and are quick to declare the trade as illegal. If these are appreciated as economic conflicts rather than giving the color of locals versus migrants and locals versus Scheduled Tribes and solved in harmonious manner by taking all on board, it would be gain to all and to the state.

Whether it is inter-state or intra-state migration or international migration, the critical issue is economic. The yearning for identity will continue but it is a shadow and stays elusive.  It is the economic cake which spurs migration and the anti-migration sentiment is due to the increased competition to share the economic cake. At the same time, migration also fuels demand in the economy creating possibilities of expanding the size of the market. Without in-migration, Goa and the villages may outwardly look serene and peaceful. However, the Goan economy and more particularly the village economy would be in doldrums also taking into account the out-migration. The term local is restrictively used to mean natives and persons of Goan origin. It has actually a wider connotation encompassing all those who are born in Goa, though the parents may be migrants and all those who satisfy the laid down criteria of residence in the state.  We hardly question the local trappings of a non-resident Goan or a person of Goan origin who looks at Goa as a purely holiday destination or an emotional contact in distant mode.




Blogger's Profile

 

Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

 

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