Despite the anti-migrant sentiment and demand for the passage of the Person of Goan Origin (POGO) bill, migrants in Goa get welfare benefits.
By Pradnya Desai
Bengaluru, April 14, 2020
Karnataka migrants stranded in Goa breathe a sigh of relief on receiving a helping hand from the Goa government, despite the bitterness between the two states following the recent Kalsa-Banduri project and anti-migrant agitation.
On April 11, migrants living in Valpoi complained that they weren’t supplied groceries as promised by the government. The very next day help arrived in the form of groceries and a guarantee.
About 800 migrants are said to be availing benefits at the government provided facilities in Goa.
Dr. Pramod Sawant, Chief Minister of Goa tweeted:
Visited Governement Shelter home in Bicholim today. All essentials are being provided to the needy and stranded people from various states. Happy to see that social distancing norms being followed at the Shelter home.#GoaFightsCOVID19 #IndiaFightsCOVID19 #FeedTheNeedy pic.twitter.com/85ayAJM8PK— Dr. Pramod Sawant (@DrPramodPSawant) April 12, 2020
The migrants that were leaving the state in haste are now also employed by the government under the ‘pre-monsoon labor’ initiative. They are engaged in the construction of drains and roads prepping for the monsoons.
Rohan Shrivastav, a journalist at The Navhind Times said, “Over 160 Panchayats have decided to employ these migrants. Medical help is also provided at the shelter homes.”
Girish Uskaikar, a panch at Merces Panchayat told the Newsnet, “The number of registered daily wage workers from other states is increasing by the day. The government has stipulated Rs. 350 per day for their work. This is too less during these troubled times.”
The onset of 2020 saw a resurgence of the anti-migrant sentiment due to a widespread campaign for the approval of the Person of Goan Origin (POGO) bill . The bill demands, “Persons of Goan Origin, defined as those whose ancestors were living in Goa prior to 1961, should have hundred percent reservation in government jobs and 80 per cent reservation in the private sector.” The change.org petition demanding popular support to this bill has received 5,871 signatures till date.
The torchbearer of the movement Manoj Parab, convener of the organization ‘Revolutionary Goans,’ had started a pan-Goa campaign educating the ‘Niz-Goenkars,’ or ethnic Goans about how migrants were robbing them off of their lands. The campaign spiralled up in hate-mongering and several incidents of hate speech and attacks, especially towards the Kannadiga migrants, have made the news.
But under the current circumstances, Goa has started counselling sessions for the migrants to deal with the psychological trauma that the lockdown has caused them. The state’s education director Vandana Rao tweeted:
#creativity on display during the counselling sessions of #migrantworkers in #Goa Govt shelter homes. #GoaFightsCOVID19 #IndiaFightsCOVID19 #wecare.@dip_goa @goacm @PerihelionStar @mygovindia pic.twitter.com/y2xa3OmQ1F— Vandana Rao (@vandana__rao) April 11, 2020
In February 2020 Goa Chief Minister informed the state assembly that 80 to 85 per cent of crimes like murders were committed by “migrants”. The migrants constitute 36 per cent of the state’s population, with Kannadigas being the largest lot among them. Repeated usage of the word ‘Ghaantis’ – those who have hailed from across the ghaat/mountain ranges – is observed to address the Kannadigas. Although the meaning of the word has derogated over time.
Kannada migrants at Baina beach have also been evicted multiple times. The reason cited by Madgao Municipal Corporation was that the Kannadigas carry out prostitution in this coastal region.
Despite all this bitterness, Indian Revenue Service (IRS) of Goa and Karnataka are also helping the stranded migrants in their respective states.
IRS officers of Karnataka &Goa are voluntarily distributing over 12000 meals daily for migrant labourers in Bangalore,alongwith immunity boosting food of@CSIR_IND CFTRI,2500 milk packets for kids in Hubli,in coordination with NGOs &@PoliceBangalore #WeCare #StayAtHome #StaySafe pic.twitter.com/xFzA9L07fJ— Income Tax India (@IncomeTaxIndia) April 11, 2020
Prakash Desai, professor of Political Science at Goa University said, “The migrant workers in Goa that hail from Gulbarga and Bijapur are in a much better condition than those in other states. Government has converted stadiums into shelters and a host of initiatives are taken up to ensure that their basic needs are met.”