Don’t shun genuine migrant workers

The move by many residential apartment complexes in Bengaluru to ‘ban’ migrant workers, especially domestic helps and maintenance staff, needs to be viewed seriously as such discriminative practices are a violation of human rights and go against the very spirit of our Constitution. India is a signatory to several United Nations covenants which state that “people have a human right to work or engage in productive employment and may not be prevented from doing so.”

Apparently, apartment associations have taken this pre-emptive step to save themselves from harassment by the police, following the recent crackdown against illegal migrants from Bangladesh living in Bengaluru. This argument does not hold much water as the role of the employer ends with checking the identity documents of the worker and informing the police of the employment in the prescribed format. Once notified, it is the duty of the police, not that of the employer, to verify the genuineness of the documents and rule out any possibility of the worker being an illegal migrant. Thus, in this case, the apartment associations are overstretching their limits, which has also raised doubts because mainly Bengali-speaking Muslims are targeted under the pretext of keeping out illegal migrants.

With globalisation, movement of manpower has become inevitable, with migrants becoming crucial to the economic growth and development of cities and even countries. Just as Kannadigas have taken over the hospitality business in Mumbai, migrants from the North and North-East have contributed to the development of various sectors in Bengaluru, including construction, beauty care, health and hotel industries. Harassment of migrants in Bengaluru could also lead to retribution against Kannadigas in other states. Besides, it should be remembered that Karnataka, especially Bengaluru, has come to be dependent on the migrant working class due to an acute shortage of labour force locally. The non-availability of labour has forced most coffee plantations in Kodagu and Chikkamagaluru to employ migrants, in the absence of whom they would have shut shop long ago. A few years ago, rumours of North-East migrants being attacked by anti-social elements led to a mass exodus from Bengaluru, forcing many business establishments to temporarily down their shutters.

 While the police should continue with their task of identifying illegal migrants, they should act against private citizens taking the law into their hands and trying to purge legal migrants who have come to the city to earn a livelihood. Bengaluru has always been a social melting pot where people of different cultures have co-existed peacefully. The police and the government should ensure that vested interests do not drive a wedge in the name of migrants.

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