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Migrants And Crime

Government should address migrant problem in a comprehensive manner

CHIEF Minister Pramod Sawant has made a disturbing revelation that migrants are involved in around 85 per cent of the heinous crimes like rape and murder reported in the state. His statement came in the wake of double murder of migrants at Fatorda earlier this week. The murderer who was nabbed within hours of committing the crime was also a migrant. The Chief Minister has promised to introduce a law to provide for police verification of the antecedents of migrants. The state police have already moved a proposal for changes in the law to provide for major penalties including a jail term for the house owners who do not cooperate with the police in the verification of the identity of tenants. The onus of getting the verification done is going to rest with the house owners.  The contractors bringing in labourers from other states too would have to get the verification of the labourers done within a stipulated time and maintain labour cards of their migrant employees.

Though tenant verification has been in force in the state for a long time, it was found to be cumbersome and not followed in letter and spirit. The law was introduced after it was found that tenants involved in crimes and illegalities could carry out their activities and escape arrest. The late Manohar Parrikar as chief minister had proposed in 2018 to enact a law empowering police to file first information reports against the house owners renting out their premises without verification of the tenants. However, the proposal was not carried forward. It is only after yet another crime was committed by a migrant whose antecedents were not verified that the authorities have felt the urgency of having a law with more teeth.

However, even if a new law is enacted it would not serve the purpose unless all the stakeholders, including government agencies strictly adhere to it. The government should begin with a door to door verification to check the identity of tenants. Goa has witnessed both in-migration and out-migration in the past decades. Goans migrated to countries in the Arabian Gulf and Europe for better prospects. Goa witnessed in-migration from other states in the years after Liberation. In the initial years the in-migration was not noticeable as the migrants were required to do jobs both in public and private sector. However, the construction boom over the past four decades has led to the influx of a large number of migrants, especially labourers. Lack of proper education, addiction to liquor, absence of healthy female companionship and thin wallet drive some of them to aggression and violence. Migrants also add to other problems the state is battling such as diseases and pollution. The state had identified migrants as cause of spurt in crimes way back in 2004, when Amod Kant was the director general of police, but no preventive steps were taken to check the trend. Goa is paying the price for inaction on the part of authorities over the years and all agencies would have to join hands to bring the situation under control.

Of course, it is impossible for the state authorities to ban migrants from entering the state. But they can restrict and monitor the inflow. Efforts should be made to create more jobs for Goan youth in the sectors where migrant workers are found to be employed. Migrants of different classes come because there are no locals available to do the job. However, where employers are using workers from other states in a sector where local workers can be found, the state government must take steps to end that practice. The government also needs to improve the education, living and income standards for the migrants. After all, they are not born monsters. They too are human beings. They are driven to crime because of their social and individual circumstances. The police must be given support by all agencies to conduct verification of the antecedents of migrants, including by police departments of other states. However, it is not possible to reduce crime only by verifying the identity of the migrant. The government has to work in collaboration with voluntary organisations to improve the conditions in which migrants live and conduct their daily lives.

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