Monday, April 28, 2014

Poverty and Migration Menace

The cost of hosting thousands of Biharis and north Indians has brought north-east India to the brink of a socio-economic crisis. For a change, chauvinist Marathi leader’s counselling to ‘future PM’ Narendra Modi that development of cow-belt would help stem ‘migration menace’ has merits...Here its how and edited version of this piece made to the prestigious North East Weekly page of The Statesman.

Raj Thackeray, we are with you!!

Hospitality is perhaps more often not a permanent virtue to human nature. The vexed anti-outsiders’ movement in various states in the north east in general and the supposed conflicts of interest with regard the Inner Liner Permit (ILP) debate in specific is related to this human tendency. Migration is in effect a multi-edged weapon for north-eastern states. 

My understanding of migration in the national context is that had our national founding fathers not provided the scope of free migration within the country, India would have collapsed as a united nation. The insurgency menace would have stuck at the heart of India – states like Madhya Pradesh as well as population wise vulnerable the cow belt or northern India.

But coming to north-east of India, we have a few serious issues at hands. In the name of pragmatism, practical handling of issues or facing reality, the ‘reality’ is that these ‘tribal states’ in the northeast have accepted permanent problems in the form of millions of work force from mainland India. Deliberately let us keep the issue of illegal foreigner influx from Bangladesh away from the debate.

The cost of entertaining thousands of Biharis and north Indians, Bengalis, Nepalis and even a large number of Marwaris from Rajasthan has brought the region to the brink of worst socio-economic crisis. Now, let us take the question often asked, whether the ILP rules as provided in the legislation framed in 1873 – the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act - if implemented properly could have helped the tribal cause. The answer is generally no.
Recently I interacted with a group of tribal students from the north-eastern states of Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram – where ILP rules are enforced.

Unhesitatingly, I must say, some of them readily agreed that the alleged collapse of ILP mechanism to check ‘inflow’ of outsiders – Mayangs in Manipur, Dhwakher in Khashi (Meghalaya), Vai-Naupang in Mizoram and Plain manu in Nagaland - too has much of it contributed towards the gunrunning culture in the northeast. Without doubt, it’s the fear and subsequent hatred towards ‘outsiders’ that have often led to insurgency or anti-India campaigns.
One of the students was particularly more vocal when she said; ILP was a “bad in law” with tremendous scope for slackness in implementation that has further aggravated the ugly situation.

So, what’s the way out of the mess or the cob of complexities?

One solution, I thought to these vexed questions lay with a rather parochial and regional chauvinist man in Mumbai – Raj Thackeray.

Raj – heading his fledgling Maharashtra Nirman Sena – in a series of television interviews during last week had actually suggested a solution to India’s intra-country unchecked migration problem.

It’s a different matter that the suggestion for a near solution comes in a crude and unsophisticated manner. Raj has suggested that according to him, Narendra Modi, whom he wants to become Prime Minister of India, should dedicate his first ‘five years’ to the development of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. This would minimise, Raj says, the “burden” of Mumbai and Maharashtra. As someone born and brought up in north-eastern India (the state of Nagaland precisely), my response to Raj’s rather chauvinist rhetoric was: how crude, but how true!

One could be wrong, but it goes without saying that the economic factors and especially the absence of job avenues – even manual – that’s driving people from Bihar and UP to ‘migrate’ outside their states. The bigger form of immigration is called exodus. The exodus normally affects the poorer sections either way – those who are migrating and importantly, also those, who are ‘affected’ by the migration. 

The sufferings of poor should get focus on both the stages. And here comes the relevance of Raj Thackeray’s suggestion or words of ‘wisdom’ for a probable Modi regime in future.
Now, frankly, I would not have been carried away by Raj Thackeray’s crude gesticulation vis-à-vis the states of Jharkhand, UP and Bihar

Ordinarily, I would have dismissed his anti-migrant rantings without a thought, but Raj's interviews coincided with my trip to Uttar Pradesh for election coverage. The sights of poverty one saw in the Yadav heartland, the supposed power base of Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, a permanent aspirant to Prime Ministership, are worth sharing.

Despite playing messiah of the poor and downtrodden and of course his favourite vote-bank ‘Muslims’ now for 3 decades, 'Netaji' as Mulayam is known remains an epitome of failure to deliver development.

The perpetual power crisis and pathetic communications infrastructure have scared away any local industry, and thus hundreds of Yadavs and Muslims in the Mulayam strongholds of Mainpuri, Firozadabad and Kannauj migrate every year to hubs like Guwahati, Dimapur, not to mention Mumbai.

In fairy tales, we have read about the demon’s life in a caged parrot; you kill the parrot and the demon would be killed. Similarly, if you can attack the ‘parrot called POVERTY’ in the Hindi-heartland, the demon of migration and its adverse fallout in states like Maharashtra as well as north eastern India too could be killed. For a change, Raj Thackeray! I am with you. I am sure there will be many more who love north-east India.


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