Rajan P. Parrikar
2008-05-05 05:39:50 UTC
My column "The Migrant Danger to Goa" has been
published in today's Herald (May 5, 2008).
It may have been edited to fit in with the
column's word limit.
The pdf file may be downloaded from -
The Migrant Danger to Goa
by Rajan P. Parrikar
Inspired by the Socratic Method, I present my case below.
Q: Why are you against the migrant influx?
A: Goa is tiny, with a finite carrying capacity and we are already
saturated. The Goan population is extremely small compared to other
communities in India. We cannot withstand the current high inflow of
migrants. It will lead to severe civic, social and economic disturbance,
will obliterate our Goan Identity, will turn Goa into an unpleasant hovel
like other urban Indian areas.
Q: What kind of migrant influx are you against?
A: I am against the current indiscriminate influx of unskilled as well
as rich migrants.
Q: The poor migrants come here to make a living. Aren?t you
being anti-poor by opposing them?
A: No. Everyone wants to build a better future for himself. But Goa
does not have the capacity to absorb India?s limitless poor. Neither
should Goa pay the price for the failures of rest of the Indian states to
improve their living standards. Importing poverty into Goa will end up
dragging Goa down the drain. Besides, we have our own Goan poor that
we need to take care of first.
Q: The constitution guarantees freedom to settle down anywhere
within India. How can you prevent people from coming without
violating their rights?
A: (a) Goa is a dot, area-wise and population-wise. Any one district
of Karnataka or Bihar is larger than Goa. Even if a tiny fraction of the
people from these states decided to move into Goa, we are sunk. Free
movement into Goa will obliterate us culturally, not to mention create
civic strife and other problems. We cannot be passive spectators at this
demographic warfare waged against us. So the ?constitutional?
argument does not hold water.
(b) Goa was not part of the Constituent Assembly and had no say
in the drafting of the Indian constitution. No safeguards were put in
place in 1961. The constitution exists in order to serve people and
society, not the other way round. Therefore, if it has to be amended to
accommodate the wishes of the Goan people, so be it. Other states -
Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Northeast states - have special provisions
and protections to preserve their interests. Why shouldn?t we enjoy the
(c) Goa is the last surviving haven of the pleasant life left in India.
We must do everything possible to keep it that way. We have before us
India?s abysmal record of turning good places into unlivable hell. What
were once pleasant retreats ? Pune, Bangalore, Ooty, Simla etc ? are
today polluted, crowded, squalid concrete nightmares.
Q: Why are migrants a problem now?
A: Because of the steep rise in their numbers and the rate of influx.
The construction & tourism boom and the international exposure have
attracted people in droves. Access to Goa is now easy. Scores of flights
come in everyday and new railway lines bring in migrants by the
hundreds. Earlier, unskilled migrants came from Karnataka and
Maharashtra. Now they come from all over: Bihar, Jharkhand, UP,
Chhattisgarh, Orissa, W Bengal, Rajasthan, AP, MP, even Nepal.
Q: But Goans need migrants to do their chores, don?t they?
A: Partly true. But also true is that today we have far greater
numbers of migrants than are actually needed. Because Goa is an
attractive place, with better daily wages, migrants from all over India are
headed this way regardless of our needs.
Q: What kind of problems do unskilled migrants present?
A: (a) Slums were inconceivable in Goa but today several have taken
root: Sancoale, Chimbel, Margao, Betim, Ponda etc are established slums
and many others are in early stages. Migrants have been allowed to
illegally usurp communidade land by politicians who use them as vote
(b) Slums have spawned severe problems of sanitation & health,
put stress on limited infrastructure & resources, created law & order
issues. Religious & social differences with the incoming migrants may
create strife in the years ahead.
(c) Unskilled migrants bring undesirable expressions of civic
conduct. Public defecation and urination are now widespread. Our
towns, villages, gardens & public spaces have become fertile grounds for
migrant loiterers. Illegal hawking is widespread on our beaches, on our
roads, in our villages.
(d) Unscrupulous politicians have created vote banks out of
migrants. Voter fraud is a blow to the basis of our electoral system.
Migrants are issued voter cards at the behest of the local politician
within days of arrival without any background checks. This subversion
of the fair electoral process will rapidly marginalize Goans. Already in
the village of Sancoale, votes of Goans are drowned out by migrant votes.
Q: Isn?t the solution proper law enforcement, holding officials
and politicians accountable?
A: That is one part. The other part involves restricting entry and
reducing the numbers of migrants. It is a matter of simple arithmetic.
When you look at the numbers it is clear that we are facing a
demographic tsunami. Our tiny Goan canoe will be swamped and sunk.
Q: What is your problem with the wealthy outsiders?
A: Goa has become a fashionable destination with rich Indians and
foreigners wanting to buy houses and land here. As a result, prices have
shot through the roof leaving the average Goan buyer helpless. With
legions of non-Goans gobbling up prime real estate, the Goan runs the
risk of being homeless in his own land.
Q: Do you have other issues with rich outsiders?
A: Goa?s unique appeal lies in the marriage of its landscape with its
people. Our cultural & religious traditions, language, lifestyle, habits -
all these ingredients constitute our Goan Identity. The new rich
outsiders view Goa as only prime seafront real estate, with no regard for,
or understanding of, our traditions and our people. Large insular gated
communities are being developed for wealthy non-Goans. Foreigners
have bought property in Goa, often circumventing the laws by forming
front companies. Russian of dubious credentials have dropped anchor
and bought land. Many old Goan houses have been purchased by non-
Goans. We got rid of one colonial power only to risk another round of
colonization, this time by the moneybags.
Q: But many of these outsiders say they love Goa.
A: If ?love of Goa? were the criterion employed, 98% of India would
want to move here. If you love Goa, come spend a week here in a hotel of
your choice and then go back.
Q: Aren?t you being xenophobic?
A: Not at all. Our tiny canoe is being swamped and we face disaster.
Should we sit by passively while we sink? Change has to be gradual and
organic. What we are seeing right now is a virtual takeover of Goa.
Q: What are your prescriptions?
A: a) Freeze all construction of residential projects and construction
on hills, and in CRZ zones.
b) Investigate and reverse voter fraud.
c) Step up law enforcement to deal with migrant loiterers, illegal
hawking, and encroachment, and civic misdemeanors.
d) Clear all slums.
e) Ban sale of land to non-Goans.
f) Demand special status for Goa within the framework of the