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 Population - the ultimate resource
 
Migrants indicate economic hope
Times of India, India Sunday, March 23, 2008

Gurcharan Das
The Indian Railways sells 6.4 billion tickets annually. Assuming a third are commuters, this means roughly four journeys per person per year in a nation of 1.1 billion people. We are a nation on the move, especially the poor in search of jobs and a better life. Our cities are becoming more cosmopolitan and an Indian identity is being forged, which will increasingly trump regional identities. In a competitive world, it takes maturity and luck to realise that immigrants make a society successful, writes Gurcharan Das in the Times of India

Thackeray scores a self-goal

 

The damage is done. Hit by an exodus of North Indian labour in the past two months following Raj Thackeray's Marathi rage, industrialists in Pune, Nashik, and Thane have slowed their expansion plans in Maharashtra and are looking towards other states. They fear a return of the old nightmare when Datta Samant's labour militancy combined with Bal Thackeray's xenophobia drove white-collar jobs from Mumbai to Bangalore and blue-collar jobs to Gujarat.

In a free market, investment flows to the most attractive destination. What makes a destination attractive is, in part, the availability of industrious workers. Immigrants everywhere tend to be hungrier and harder working than locals. Economists like Harvard's Richard Freeman have shown that societies that encourage immigration outperform those that do not. This is why experts predict that
America will remain competitive in the 21st century, while Europe and Japan will decline. As a land of immigrants, America is more capable of accepting immigrants, unlike Europe and Japan which have historically failed to absorb outsiders. Under pressure of ageing populations and shrinking workforces, Europe and Japan will, thus, lose out to China and India.

The Indian Railways sells 6.4 billion tickets annually. Assuming a third are commuters, this means roughly four journeys per person per year in a nation of 1.1 billion people. We are a nation on the move, especially the poor in search of jobs and a better life. Our cities are becoming more cosmopolitan and an Indian identity is being forged, which will increasingly trump regional identities. This imposes real costs on Raj Thackeray's bigotry.

Maharashtrian workers do have a legitimate problem, however. How do they respond to the challenge of more nimble and productive immigrants? The answer is to make
Maharashtra even more attractive for investment. Raj Thackeray should push for better infrastructure, better colleges, and better vocational schools. This will make Maharashtrians more skilled and more competitive. Eventually, many will move up into the middle class and leave the menial jobs to migrants.

There is a more troubling question, however. What makes ordinary, decent Maharashtrian boys turn into a violent and cruel mob? It is the same question that Germans have asked for 75 years — “how did we become evil Nazis in the 1930s?” David Livingstone Smith tries to answer this in his book, The Most Dangerous Animal. He argues that all human beings are disposed to evil — it only needs a trigger like Hitler or Thackeray. The men of the German Reserve Police Battalion 101, who shot 38,000 Jewish unarmed civilians one afternoon, were “middle-aged family men without military training or ideology”. The same could be said of all mass killings. The murderer could be you or me. Scientists explain our violent tendencies through our genes. Like all social animals, from ants to chimpanzees, we are highly xenophobic. The more closely knit we are, the more aggressive we are to outsiders. Our Constitution makers realised the dangers of giving power to the human animal — hence, they set up a system of checks and balances.

Raj Thackeray is not the only one to score a self-goal.
Malaysia's 'bumiputra' movement continues to drive investment from Malaysia to other South-East Asian countries. Germany failed to attract Indian software engineers a few years ago, despite an attractive 'green card' scheme, because its people are inhospitable to immigrants. In a competitive world, it takes maturity and luck to realise that immigrants make a society successful.

 

This article was published in the Times of India, on 23 March 2008. Please read the original article here.

Author : Mr Das writes the Men & Ideas column in Times of India, and the author of India Unbound.
Tags- Find more articles on - India domestic migration | India migration | migration economics | migration Mumbai | son of the soil | Thackeray maharashtra

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