Outsiders on the inside
Most Mumbaiites don’t buy the anti-migrant argument. Experts point out that Mumbai would have never grown into a global city without migrants driving its growth and contributing to its economy.mumbai Updated: May 14, 2010 02:14 IST
Raj Thackeray may be persisting with his Mumbai-for-Maharashtrians line, but most Mumbaiites don’t resent migrants. According to a city-wide Hindustan Times-Ipsos Indica Research study conducted in March, 55 per cent of those surveyed said no when asked if the migrant influx should be controlled. What’s more, 56 per cent felt local Maharashtrians benefit from opportunities in Mumbai.
For the survey, Hindustan Times and Ipsos interviewed 10,374 people, asking them what their main concerns about the city were. They were then asked to pick their top two priorities.
The respondents were then divided into several smaller groups based on their top two concerns. Typically, every respondent was part of two smaller groups, each of which corresponded to one concern. Each group was then asked detailed questions abut their respective concerns.
In the case of migration, the group concerned had listed ‘local politics’ as one of its top two priorities. This amounted to a sample of 957 people.
R.B. Bhagat, professor of migration and urban studies at the International Institute of Population Sciences, Deonar, said that in most urban areas, 60 per cent of the population rise was due to ‘natural growth’ — number of births minus number of deaths. “Historically, migration has helped in the economic growth of the place people migrated to. Without migration, our seven islands would not have evolved into the cosmopolitan international hub that is the Mumbai of today. Migrants account for 25 per cent of the population increase across India. The problem is lack of civic amenities, and for that the government is to blame.”
Or, as Ratnakar Mahajan, former State Planning Board chairman, said: “The Mumbai-for-Maharashtrians ideology has no support from the sane and thinking people of Mumbai. The ideology survives because those who run the state are afraid they will antagonise Marathi-speakers if they act against the ideology’s narrow-minded promoters.”
Asked to spell out their vision for their city, 46 per cent of Mumbaiites said they wanted it to become an international city; 38 per cent said it should be safe and secure.
Mumbai has witnessed violence in the recent past over the migrants issue, with Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) attacking taxi drivers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Sheetal deSa (30), who lived in Bandra and Charni Road before moving to Goregaon (East), said she had nothing against migrants if they contributed to the economy.
Amish Tripathi (35), author of the just-published book Immortals of Meluha, said: “The world over, countries such as the US and the UK, that welcomed immigrants, performed better than Japan and the Scandinavian countries that did not. Having said that, migrants should respect local culture without losing their own — as the Parsis have so effectively done in India. And if a clash occurs, violence is simply no way to solve the issue.”