Free Press Journal

Interrupting Gujarat story


On occasions like this, we all seem to be on a short fuse. A grave provocation is enough to trigger an uncontrollable rage in all of us. And when that anger is felt by a large group of people, concerns about law and order, justice and fair play take a back seat, causing us to often take the law into our own hands. This happened in Gujarat recently.

Local people rightly felt outraged by an incident of a child molestation by a migrant worker from Bihar. Soon violent mobs let loose terror against the migrants from Bihar and UP and other States, beating them up, attacking their houses, and generally intimidating them. A Congress MLA, Alpesh Thakor, apparently, instigated the attacks in parts of the State. Thakor’s Gujarat Kshatriya Sena was allegedly most active in kicking up a frenzy against the migrant workers. In the resulting atmosphere of fear and terror, thousands of migrants abandoned their homes and workplaces to return home. The attitude of the Vijay Rupani Government, for obvious reasons, was ambivalent.

This was not what we were led to believe the vibrant Gujarat was all about. Without the migrant workers, a number of key industries and business enterprises would suffer. Migrants find work in Gujarat because either there is a shortage of locals or the kind of work they do locals are not willing to do. Locals generally avoid working in chemical, pesticide and heavy industries which require hard labour. Happily, after more than a week, the situation seems to be returning to normal. Migrant workers are getting back to their jobs. The anger triggered by the sexual assault on the 14-month-old girl seems to have subsided after the arrest of the accused. But the incident holds lessons for the people and the state government. There is need for the locals to understand that migrants are part of the success story of their State.

They are not there to take away their jobs, but to contribute in the collective prosperity of the State. If, as we noted above, the locals were ready and skilled to do the work the migrants from Bihar, UP and other north Indian States do, surely employers would prefer to hire locals. As for the State government, it ought to have nipped the trouble in the bud soon after the news of the molestation of the little girl spread. While Thakor seized on the brutal rape for growing his own standing in his community, his party did not deem it fit to restrain him. As for the ruling party, it was forced on the back foot when the main Opposition took the lead in perpetrating lawlessness in the name of defending local people. Meanwhile, the move to redefine a domicile from the existing fifteen to a mere two years should help somewhat bridge the emotional gap between migrants and locals.

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