Mere technicality of papers and permits should not be the reason to destroy the lives of poor migrants
– Asif Hussain
The word migration evokes many emotions. Migration is a necessity of life. Migration history is an integral part of human history if not as old as recorded human history.
As we mark 18th December every year as the Day of Migration, it is the best time to discuss and understand migration issues.
Across the world migration is a universal phenomenon.
Why do individuals or whole villages migrate? How has urbanization affected migration trends? Urbanization is an initiative by and for whom and what are the contributions of migrants? What is the quality of life of migrants? What are the challenges faced by migrants? What role do the state and administration play in helping or disturbing the status of the migrant population?
Why are tensions created to give migrants a bad name? How difficult is it for the migrant population to cope with xenophobic elements?
Many more such questions will come to our minds.
Migration can take place for many reasons. In search of livelihood is the most common reason. Natural calamities, epidemics, marriages, social disturbance and ethnic cleansing are all causes of migration.
Under-development of an area leads to push factors leading to out-migration while development and better quality of life are pull factors for in-migration. Many a time there is voluntary migration but many events in history and in the present time we have seen people being forced to migrate. Disasters, education, and conflict are common reasons for migration.
People migrate from across the national border and this is not always permanent. Even migration across states within a country is not always permanent but a certain percentage can be permanent too.
Contrary to common opinion, migration and migrants contribute to both the local community and their home state or district.
Migrants contribute to local economy during their stay and their remittances contribute to the quality of life back home.
Migration contributes to local skill development with skilled and talented workers adding to the value of the local society.
The UN International Organisation for Migration report says that 1 out of 30 people is a migrant which means 281 million people in the world are migrants. In other words, 3.6% of the world population are migrants. It is true that in the past five decades, international migration has increased.
Remittances back to the home country were estimated at 702 billion dollars.
For our good fortune, we are right on top of the remittances recipient countries list at 83 billion dollars.
Countries from where most of the remittances come are the USA, 68 billion dollars; the UAE, 43.2 billion dollars; the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 34.6 billion dollars.
While Europe hosts 87 million international migrants, Asia is not far behind with 86 million. In 2020 the figures for displaced people in the world stood at 89.4 million i.e. 1.1%of the population.
Of these 30% are refugees in other countries.
The chart for home away from home for Indians is as follows:
UAE: 3.5 million
USA: 2 million
KSA: 1.9 million
Oman: 0.7 million
UK: 0.7 million
Qatar: 0.6 million
Across the world, there are 740 million internal migrants, as of 2009.
Tamil Nadu has a million migrants and an incident wherein videos went viral of attacks on the migrants population led to scare industrial and manufacturing giants of the exodus of labour force.
Migrants face many problems. In the case of internal migration, individuals face many difficulties. Constant movement in search of job leads to documentation problems. Social integration also becomes difficult. In most societies, new people or migrants with a different culture are unaccepted and generally get treated as second-class citizens. Language barriers, exclusion from political rights, difficulties of schooling and denial of access to welfare schemes are common difficulties that migrants face.
In many states, due to a lack of housing schemes or systems, poor migrants generally end up in slums and shanties. Here they are at the mercy of local landlords or political agents for mere survival or residential permits. The growing number of slums in a district or state is the symbol of increased in-migration.
Though the Constitution of India gives the fundamental right of freedom to move to any part of India, the ground realities are always opposite and have a price.
17.5 million Indians are international migrants, amounting to 6.4% of the world’s migrant population.
Recent studies have shown a decline in population as one of the pull factors for in-migration.
In India, migration is not viewed positively and policies are aimed at reducing internal migration.
In Goa many local families have permanently migrated to European countries. Many of us Goans are in the Gulf countries too.
Construction boom in Goa and road development works have led to a lot of in-migration to Goa. The Verna Industrial Estate says many reputed companies employ people with or without skills. The workman skills required in these new industries and employment prospects in these companies are not the type of jobs that Goan youth are comfortable with. This has led to many Maharashtrians and youth from other neighboring states to take up the available jobs. Today almost carpenters, plumbers, electricians, masons and others are all from northern Indian states.
Electrical shops, stationery and medical stores, hardware and sweets stores are all from Rajasthan and Gujarat.
New regional and political parties and even national political parties have tried to foster an aggressive posture against migrants, often blaming migrants for all the ills in the Goan society.
Even well-meaning and reasoning Goans easily fall prey to this anti-migrant stand without evaluating the actual needs of the Goan industrial and commercial sector.
This often leads to migrants facing safety and security issues. Their bread and livelihood are threatened.
The affluent and white-color migrants having a voice are seldom targeted but the poor and voiceless migrants often get their stalls uprooted.
An anti-migrant narrative is set by sections of media, social media, and political parties leading to threats to their housing needs and livelihood. Ultimately, they seek political patronage, only to be used as vote banks. Migrants are often threatened with eviction or demolition notices. The poor among these who sell fish, fruit and flowers and are mostly street vendors seeking a livelihood honestly are treated as disposable garbage and nuisance.
This orchestrated narrative set by well-fed armchair activists by using social media and political clout has led to great tension in the Goan society. The aggression and hate fuelled by anti-migrant emotions is a ticking timebomb.
For us in Goa, the political parties, social activists and those concerned with the well-being of Goa need to shift their focus on the policies of successive governments. Their anger should be directed at political leaders and parties and not the poor humans.
On this International Migrants Day, we all need to work towards making the lives of migrants comfortable and peaceful. Mere technicality of papers and permits should not be the reason to destroy the lives of poor migrants. Much is desired from all stakeholders to make Goa migrants friendly. Effective schemes like Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ONORC), Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana scheme, and e-Shram Portal if implemented effectively will play a constructive role towards this goal.