//Migrants in Goa: Boon or bane?

Migrants in Goa: Boon or bane?

Cortalim MLA Matanhy Saldanha’s comments that Goans will soon be a rare commodity in their own land, reiterates what Bal Thackeray announced in 1966 when he founded the Shiv Sena in Mumbai. He insisted on Bombay for the Marathis and the “sons of the soil” ideology erupted on the center-stage of India’s political history.

Today in a period of globalization, that “sons of the soil” ideology is outdated because the economic wealth of the metropolis is due to its cosmopolitan character. But the “sons of the soil” ideologies have kept erupting, as evident in the “Save Kannada” protest movement in November last year, that pelted stones at Infosys headquarters in Bangalore’s Electronic City. The influx of “outsiders” to Bangalore has reduced Kannadigas to a mere 35% of Bangalore’s seven million population and these “outsiders” have hogged the jobs in the IT industries like Infosys.

igration is causing a phenomenal demographic transition. The latest demographic statistics on Goa (Census 2001) indicate that migrants working in the organized and unorganized sectors constitute nearly 4 lakhs of Goa’s 13.48 lakhs population. Over four decades, the migrants now constitute 33-34% of Goa’s population.The most startling statistic is that the proportion of Muslims to the total  population of Goa has, in the same four decades, risen from 1.6% to 6.84 %. During this time there has been a mere 3% increase in Christian population.

f this trend continues then in the next decade, Christians and Muslims may each have about a 15% share of Goa’s population. So the coming decade may see stiff competition between Christians and Muslims for political, social and economic space. There may also be conflict between the liberal Goan Muslims and the orthodox migrant Muslims on matters like the common Civil Code and Islamic laws. This incipient division was fully exploited by the BJP leaders during the Sanvordem riots. The situation is tailor made for Goa to become their laboratory for “soft” Hindutva, after the outcry against the “hard” Hindutva model of post Godhra Gujarat.The growth rate of migrant Hindu and Muslim population has been phenomenal. These findings regarding causes for Goa’s diminishing Christian population raise some uncomfortable questions for the Church in Goa.

igrants from north Karnataka, the Konkan belt, from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa look upon Goa as their “Gulf State.” Goa provides infinite opportunities for jobs and much higher salaries than they can hope for at home. It is a sad irony of fate that successive local governments have turned a blind eye to the increasingly burning issue of migrants which is agitating the minds of many Goans today. Over the last thirty years employment in saw mills, breweries, auto repair workshops, construction and maintenance of roads, building operations like stone crushing and breaking, tile and brick making and work in restaurants and industrial establishment employ mainly non-Goans. It compels one to suspect that there is a serious hidden agenda. The migrants  are a veritable vote bank for unscrupulous politicians.Loss of jobs for native Goans
It is not primarily the migrant workers, but the fact that they are ready to work at much lower wages, that is the real problem. They do many of the menial jobs that Goans will not do. Many of the migrants supply cheap labor, which means lower salaries for the local employers. This marginalizes local Goan job-seekers, who find it below their dignity to work for the poor salaries that they are offered. It is estimated that there are 1,35,000 unemployed local youths.

Native Goans will become OBCs in Goa

The real danger is that the politicians and migrants have developed an “unholy” nexus by which the shanty towns housing the migrants have illegally come up on communidade land, under the patronage of the politicians themselves. As their numbers increase, the politicians will continue to promise them regularization. This builds up resentment among the local population, who find slums quietly springing up in the quiet villages, jobs only suited for migrants workers and the idyllic village environment suddenly turned dirty and ugly by the presence of these migrants.

Destruction of Goa’s identity and way of life

he growing social unrest in Goa is not just directed against “outsiders” and their alleged illegal and disruptive activities, but is an expression of the Goan people’s anger at the destruction of Goa’s identity and their customary way of life. Local people are feeling helpless in the face of the destruction of their land through the mushrooming of migrant’s slums. They see their small businesses in the market places gradually falling into the hands of migrants Muslims, who are hard-working and with funds at their disposal. While Goans are very hard-working outside Goa, they consider their “Sussegad’ way of life as part of their identity. Taking days and hours off to attend religious functions, family traditions, village feasts does not sit well with a migrant’s work ethic which they are forced to have in order to please their employers.Towards a Humane Response
One category who make up the bulk of the migrants who come to Goa, are from the weaker sections of society, usually called derogatorily “Ghanttis.” The “pull” factors that attract them  are not just better wages, but the vacuum being created in the job market by native Goans not being ready to do the work that they consider dirty, dangerous and dehumanizing, or for a poor wage.

The category of migrants that are most dangerous and need to be targeted are those who make Goa their base for illegal activities like drug peddling, trafficking in women and children, starting bogus industries and services that lure innocent locals, and conduct other such nefarious activities. Hand in glove with the politicians, government bureaucrats and local police, they create space for themselves by bribing corrupt officials, providing muscle power for intimidation and basically depriving local people of their rights or colluding with them in corrupting and perverting the economic, political and cultural system of Goa.Are migrants a boon or bane? Cortalim MLA Matanhy Saldanha will have one view, the builders lobby and representatives of the Industrial Estates will have their own perspective. Naturally, the government will sit on the fence. Only a Migrants Forum that enables and interface between all these different perspectives can address this increasingly burning issue in a humane yet effective way.