ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The All-purpose Migrant Worker

Migrant workers in India provide cheap labour and are also scapegoats blamed for all socio-economic ills.

India’s cities have for long lived with the dichotomy of having “outsiders,” mostly semi-skilled and unskilled poor migrant workers, providing for multifaceted requirements. The regional politicians can blame them for rising unemployment and crime graphs, the locals can vent their ire against them for being the cause of collapsing civic amenities, the chauvinists can rant against them for not assimilating themselves culturally, and the business and industry class can use them for cheap labour and services. For the middle classes in the cities, they also provide domestic services. In recent weeks, Gujarat’s migrant workers, particularly those hailing from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh, experienced mob violence which led them to flee the state in panic. They were then assured that they were safe and were requested to stay or to come back. This recent case in a series of such cases over the years, in a nutshell, captures the dismal lives of poor migrant workers in almost all the prominent cities and towns.

The violence in Gujarat against North Indian workers began after a worker hailing from Bihar was accused of having sexually assaulted a toddler on 28 September 2018. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was quick to blame the Congress and Kshatriya Thakor Sena leader Alpesh Thakor for the violence. The baby belonged to a Thakor family. Nothing was easier than identifying the North Indian “bhaiyyas” for reprisal or blaming them for taking away their precious jobs. In Mumbai, a city that historically has benefited immensely from migrants of all hues and levels of qualifications, migrant workers face periodic bouts of violence particularly unleashed by regional parties. It is a well-known and accepted fact that Mumbai’s status as the commercial capital rests massively on the labour and services of migrants, as does the domestic services that the middle class particularly depends on. Yet, this does not prevent politicians and local groups from blaming the “outsiders” for destroying the traditional cultural and linguistic glory of the city.

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Updated On : 22nd Oct, 2018
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