R.B. Bhagat, professor of migration and urban studies at the International Institute of Population Sciences, Deonar, said part of the anger against migrants can be traced to the lack of civic amenities and infrastructure in Mumbai.
Are Mumbaiites turning against migrants?
Those who have lived in the city for long, say, more than 20 years, are turning against migrants. This is because infrastructure and civic amenities have not kept pace with growth. Migrants have become handy scapegoats for some people. They are blamed for everything, from the water shortage to sewage problems and overcrowded public transport. Then, politicians who have failed to provide these facilities, start attacking migrants in order to bypass their responsibilities.
Does migration hinder the native population?
No. This sons-of-the soil concept is a futile one. Most low-rung jobs go to the native people, be it in the government or police. Only the skilled and the professional jobs go to outsiders. Outsiders improve products and services in the places they migrate to.
What is the source of the perceived anti-migrant sentiment?
One reason is that jobs in the organised sector have reduced and jobs in the unorganised sector are often short-term, temporary or casual. This leads to exploitation and frustration.
Could you cite examples of places that benefited from migration?
Countries such as the US, Australia and Canada, to name but a few, grew because of migration. Historically, Mumbai grew into a metropolis because of the capitalists and businessmen who made this city their home. Cities like Kanpur and Varanasi have not developed because they failed to attract migrants. Migrants bring vitality, heterogenity, the labour market gets diversified… All this provides impetus for growth.
What should be done to deal with the anti-migrant sentiment?
Proper education. The intelligentsia needs to educate people on the reasons for migration. There should be an organisation to protect migrants’ rights, much like human rights commissions. Migrants who are economically and socially disadvantaged need to be protected.