15 Jul 2017 05:59am IST
Jose Maria Miranda
The issue of migrants versus locals is perhaps always at the back of our minds, but it is rarely brought out in the Press and not very often even in the social media. It is but natural for anyone to be inclined or even show favor towards one’s own: family member, relative, friend or someone from the same community, region or State. However, to have a diametrically opposite feeling or attitude towards those totally unconnected with us, would be unfair and improper and could lead to animosity or even hatred. While the former can lead to nepotism and even the more serious possibility of killing merit, the latter may give way to strife and violence, which is surely always undesirable particularly in a harmonious society like ours in Goa.
Discrimination rather than racism does exist abroad but it is related more to unemployment. Influx of outsiders made locals lose or be deprived of jobs. This added to amenities granted to former, indirectly financed by residents was resented and hence all the more animosity towards migrants. In a European capital, I did observe some dislike for people from old colonies, but the contention of migrants was that they had been brought there to do menial work for the colonialists, when the latter were unwilling to do it; so they would now stay put, even if they did not require them. Does this signal anything to us, Goans?
Some resentment, even violence, against outsiders has been witnessed in some parts of India too. A similar feeling is slowly but steadily creeping into Goa. One is often confronted with the argument that Goans too have migrated to various parts of India and the world and have therefore no right to oppose the influx of migrants into our State. While the former is true, it must be said that Goans, who migrate, behave themselves, respect the law of the land and assimilate the customs and traditions of the place, unlike many migrants, mostly from the working class who come to Goa, grab land illegally, squat wherever they wish and live in unsanitary conditions, thus affecting the lives and health of their neighbors. We cannot always blame the migrants for this, as the Government, its agencies, most builders and developers use the services of such people without providing them with proper living conditions.
The worrying issue for Goa is that we have already taken more than we can chew. Anticipating the uncontrolled influx from beyond the borders, some people who had the vision of what could happen to Goa in such an eventuality wanted some safeguards, which were unfortunately ignored by those who wished to adore the rising Sun in 1961. Both then and in 1974, Goans failed to demand privileges which would have ensured a situation which would have been far different from what it is now. But while blaming perhaps our elders for this lapse, we cannot absolve ourselves of having contributed to the influx by our migration, or rather exodus to foreign counties - not always for better prospects but sometimes for a more comfortable life - our easy way of life, our unfortunate attitude towards menial and skilled work, etc. The void had to be filled in and is now irreversible. However, we cannot also lose sight of the fact that Goa could not provide sufficient work force for the developmental works carried out in Goa and we owe it to the migrants, who often work late to complete the tasks, which the Goans would not be willing to do. We also need to appreciate many people, not originally from Goa, for their immense contribution and struggles on issues detrimental to Goa. In fact, some of them have done more for Goa than the Goans themselves did.
The shameful incident at Merces would not have happened had Goans been involved instead of tourists. Tourists need to be treated as our honored guests. Further, our culture does not permit such immature and inhuman behavior. The assault by an illegal hawker on a journalist in Margao drew strong protests from citizens who felt that it was height of audacity on the part of a migrant to beat up a Goan, moreover when the former was carrying out illegal business. They saw it as a sign of things to come and hence felt the need for a show of unity and preemptive measures. Sometime back, another migrant was involved in a rude argument with the Chairperson of MMC. Such boldness stems from the patronage these people enjoy from the politicians and municipal employees for obvious reasons and complacency of the MMC.
Goans have also been resentful of the fact that migrants can get ration, election cards and avail of welfare schemes more easily than Goans do. Migrants are not to blame for this preferential treatment, but the politicians and servile bureaucrats. Incidentally, while BJP had strongly opposed the introduction of Adhar Card by the Congress, it has taken a U turn and made it compulsory for filing returns, bank accounts, welfare schemes, etc. However, while this may not be an issue, one wonders why the Election Card is not being linked to Adhar. Is it not to allow voters to exercise their franchise at more than one place, as it is happening in Goa, where many migrants are enrolled in their native place too? Will BJP explain this deliberate and glaring omission?Instead of nursing animosity towards migrants, who come here to earn their livelihood, we need to introspect seriously into the reasons for the influx and arrest it if we can. Our targets should not be the migrants but illegalities and the politicians, who patronize them.
(The author is a retired Banker)