More comments on migrants v. natives: A response

There have been more comments in today’s newspapers on the issue of migrants v. natives which require a reasoned response. N.K.Singh says in Indian Express: “the concerns raised by MNS are no different from the apprehensions raised by countries where migrants land — that migrants might usurp local jobs, upset the cultural cohesiveness of society, cause strain on civic amenities and infrastructure. However, successive studies have proved these fears to be grossly exaggerated. Migrants all over the world, and indeed in India, add value and create wealth for sustenance of a competitive economic order. This is equally applicable to more prosperous states like Punjab, Haryana, and Kerala.” One wishes Singh cites the studies which he referred to. He concludes: “Short-term sub-national xenophobia has no place in our ethos, constitution, and developmental compulsions. Managing sensible economics while allaying misplaced apprehensions is the way forward.” Well, there could have been elaboration of what he meant by allaying misplaced apprehensions, and managing sensible economics.

Soli Sorabjee, in his column, obviously makes a general comment on excluding outsiders in every State, and believes that the MNS stands for such a doctrine. But he concedes: “It is argued that the success of Mumbai and Maharashtra has been achieved by the sweat of the toiling Maharashtrian masses. That is partly true. However, that is an iniquitous feature of the working of our economic system, which is detrimental to workers throughout India and is not confined to Maharashtra alone. The claim that Maharashtrian workers should have a better share of the cake, by way of labour welfare schemes, removal of slums, preference for Maharashtrians in employment, merits consideration.” Obviously, he is sympathetic to the MNS cause, minus its aggressive face.

Sudheendra Kulkarni, former OSD to the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in his column in Indian Express,(link cannot be provided) says Raj Thackeray fell prey to the temptation of gaining quick political mileage by targeting north Indians as a whole in a crude attempt, perhaps, to score over the Shiv Sena. He says even the protest against north Indians for disrespecting Marathi sentiments is justified. It is clear from his column, that he too disapproves only the aggressive face of his movement.

If you read the report on Raj’s interview to a Marathi daily carefully, it is clear that he is against only the challenge of political mobilization by North Indian leaders in Mumbai. He is against observance of UP-divas in Mumbai (with manifestations of political goondaism, as he calls it.) only because it poses a political challenge to his constituency. This aspect of Raj’s rhetoric should not be confused with the MNS’ other nativist demands, which may be within the Constitutional limits.

Vir Sangvi’s column is critical of the media’s role in the Mumbai tamasha, which I would readily concede. But I would suggest had the media not been there to cover the initial incidents violence, and show them repeatedly (even if it is unethical), Raj would have been desperate, and would have thought MNS might have to indulge in widespread violence to attract national attention to its cause. That would have aggravated Mumbai’s pain further.

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  • I found a study on the impact of Mexican immigration into the US through the 20th century. In their conclusions (p. 42), the authors note "Mexican immigrants have much less educational attainment than either native-born workers or non-Mexican immigrants. These differences in human capital account for nearly three-quarters of the very large wage disadvantage suffered by Mexican immigrants in recent decades." I suspect this is similar to the UP/Biharis coming to Bombay which may make their other conclusion (#4) relevant:" The large Mexican influx in recent decades widened the U.S. wage structure by
    adversely affecting the earnings of less-educated native workers and improving the earnings of college graduates. These wage effects have, in turn, lowered the prices of non-traded goods and services that are low-skill labor intensive." If the unskilled, poorly educated Marathi manoos have seen their incomes fall likewise (who are perhaps a significant political force that every party has to contend with), they may well be the segment where Raj’s rhetoric has struck a chord. That perhaps is also the reason why, as PB Mehta laments, "not one major leader, from Sharad Pawar to Vilasrao Deshmukh, has expressed the requisite sense of outrage or engaged in the kind political symbolism that can assure all Indian citizens that they are not quietly complicit in this dangerous madness."