Making Peace with Migrants

By Prabhakar Timble
06 November 2012 07:57 IST

History has proved that migrants build the economy of the region at a faster pace than what would have been possible for the local communities. In fact, the petition and requisition for the migrants is a derived demand. This demand springs from the goods and services provided by the migrants and needed by the locals in any region. Had it not been for this, any form of migration would not happen. The reasons for immigration into Goa are no different from the motives which account for the migration of locals to other territories. It is erroneous to assume that migration materialises due to the demand for voters and vote banks by political leaders and political parties. Labelling migrants as refugees and burden on local communities is a result of inadequate understanding. It is almost a culture amongst locals in Goa to single out migrants as the cause of the problems of Goan economy and society.

Migrants build, locals destroy

We expect migrants to serve the requirements of our economic and infrastructure development and dislike them almost nearing to the point of hate. We ridicule their unhygienic “ghettos” bordering every town in our state. We want them to serve our interests enhancing our quality of life. At the same time, our mind gets filled with thunder storms if migrants get access to basic needs of shelter, water, electricity, and identity cards for rations and voting.

The popular contention is that migrants destroy local environment and culture. Further, they pose a threat to identity due to demographic disturbance. In reality, this is far from truth. In fact, the bottom line migrants get assimilated into the culture, language and causes of the locals. They add value to economy as well as preservation of natural environment. If any harm amounting to destruction is visible, it needs to be attributed to the involvement and abetment by locals mainly belonging to the landed elite and political class. In any case, such damage could be caused even without immigration and the migrants on whose heads we pull the trigger.

Immediately after liberation, the human resource for primary and school education came from neighbouring states followed by human capital for government services and health sector. Now, we have local manpower in this area. With public investment in infrastructure, port development and urban services, there was dearth of labour which resulted in a flutter of migration. The real estate boom of the last two decades and the inappropriate choice of investments in industrial estates lured more migration. These migrants find Goa attractive and convenient for settlement and education of their children as compared to their places of origin. The locals may have issues with the government. The migrants find the place better governed and relatively offering better access to basic human needs. The small size of the state gives them admission to centres of political and administrative power which is an elusive luxury in their hometowns and villages. In Goa, they find not only livelihood but a hope of enriching their daily lives.

From labour to petty entrepreneurship

In short, the migrants have built the tourism, housing and public works infrastructure of Goa. Their entry has not snatched opportunities of the locals since the entry of the less privileged migrants is in the area “unoccupied” by the locals. Locals lament that the real estate boom has thrown them out of the market. Undoubtedly true, but the anger of disenfranchisement from housing and real estate should not load up on the migrants. It is the marriage between the local property owners and the capital from outside that accounts for the loss-win situation. Goa’s identity and environment, if at all it is destroyed, it can be only by the locals, nobody else.

There seems to be tolerance to non-local investors in land and real estate and business in the organised sector. The growing hold on business in the unorganised sector by non-locals raises eyebrows. The entry of migrants in the retail sector and wholesale business which traditionally has been a local fiefdom is a subject of prejudiced debate. These are areas where locals have shied away and exhibited unwillingness to be involved. These are opportunities in a growing economy. It is pointless to accuse migrants for entering these areas since these are equally available for all. Today, this entrepreneurship is visible in all petty trades and services. Finally, this serves the needs of the expanding markets. It is natural that the gaps in demand and supply would be filled from either internal or external source. These are market realities which we need to understand and digest rather than spitting fire at the migrants.

Nouveau locals not vote banks

The heat and the hate for migrants is seen at most of the locations. They are viewed as interrupters of development of locals and circuits which close identity and culture. Despite making the most desired contributions to the economy of the region, they are hunted as vote banks. It is a generally held belief that crime and anti-social activity is the pitch of the migrants. This thinking also forces the agenda of political parties. Regional political outfits get irrigated with the anti-migrant programme. This is seen in Goa as also in the neighbouring states. For their continued survival such outfits pump the fuel of dissent and discord in the community. Such a climate also forces migrants to look at politicians as protectors of their ramshackle dwellings and economic interests. This is the option open to migrants after they are disowned by the local community. The local media too plays the strings sending the vibes that the migrant population is the evil genie which needs to be bottled.

It is necessary to understand that migration and immigration are inevitable and would happen in all societies and regions primarily due to economic factors. Converting migrants into a political football is unfair and unjust. The war against migrants and particularly prejudice against those who are denied access to basic amenities and public services is uncharitable and inhuman.

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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Previous Comments

This is good news! that a person of standing in society says "migrants build". Thank You so much. It was good to read this view , while many keep saying such negative things about migrants. thank you once again.

- Sheela, Miramar | 22 nd December 2012 14:51

 

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