Assimilation solves migrant problem, not resentment: Shashi Tharoor

Congressman Shashi Tharoor said on Saturday that the answer to the problem of the migrant population was assimilation and not resenting their presence. Speaking in an interactive session on “Sustainable Smart City and the Potential of Mapusa”, Tharoor answered a question about protecting Goa’s cultural ethos “without being racist or discriminatory”.

“Assimilation will be the answer to your question. I am personally against all this resentment, son of the trade of the ground. I was a small child in Bombay when there was a movement against South Indians and the defacing of South Indian shops and signs. And I believe that our Constitution of India grants every Indian citizen the right to work, live and practice his profession anywhere in the country. I would like to defend this principle,” said Tharoor.

His comments ahead of Assembly elections in Goa on February 14. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has pledged to reserve 80% of private jobs in Goa for Goans and the Indigenous Revolutionary Goans (RG) have requested reservations for Goans in Goa.

Tharoor said: “It has become a politically contentious issue. Here, the Revolutionary Goans (RG) party has also made it an issue. I have a slightly different take on this. In Kerala too, we have a lot of migrants. What is particularly striking in Kerala is that we are primarily known as an exporter of skills and manpower. Everywhere in India you find working Keralites and of course in the Gulf the largest Indian population would be from Kerala. Why do we import labour? Because these guys are going to work overseas and there is no one to do the heavy lifting in the state. Whether it’s the construction workforce, to put it bluntly, the working class, the working class professions. The handyman in the building where I live in Trivandrum is from Bihar etc. But the answer to this dilemma was not to resent their presence. But the answer lies rather in assimilation. These people are from Bihar, Bengal and Odisha and they find they are in the middle of a culture, there is no hostility towards them, which embraces them and welcomes them but expects them that they learn the local language, learn the local customs and tastes and dress and they do it.

He said, “Haryana did what RG wants to do. They passed a law requiring every company to have 75% of its staff from Haryana. Today’s newspaper will tell you that this law has been suspended by the High Court as unconstitutional. We should respect the Constitution, encourage people to come to Goa, but make sure that if they play on your ground, they respect your rules. This is the assimilation response. I gave you a personal opinion. Our party has not taken a position on the matter.

At the event organized by the Mapusa Block Congress Committee, Tharoor answered questions on smart cities, education, environment and tourism, among others.

Responding to a question about smart cities, he said, “It’s about using technology for better governance to improve people’s lives. It should not be limited to the 99 or 100 cities that the BJP has chosen. Every Indian city should have a minimum of these facilities at some level, some standard which makes life better for people. And inequality of application is a real problem.

Tharoor said more awareness needs to be created among people for environmental protection. “Of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, 19 are in India. It is a national problem,” he said.

“Just raising a child in Delhi is like condemning that child to be ten years younger for life. Whatever normal life expectancy they would have had if they had grown up in Goa, this would be ten years younger if they grew up in Delhi. That’s how bad the air pollution is. It’s going to affect their lungs and long term life expectancy. It’s quite horrifying to realize that. Kolkata is not much better,” said Tharoor.

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