BY FR CARLOS LUIS SAC
It was heartening to note that Caritas-Goa and the Goa Institute of Management held a workshop to discuss and improve the conditions of interstate migrant workers.
One hopes the suggestions and deliberations made during the workshop are implemented by the concerned stakeholders, or else it will have been an exercise in futility.
It is also high time for Goans to realise and accept that we have been eschewing menial jobs. Migrant labourers, meanwhile, have been graciously ready to fill the missing quota of labour.
Migrant workers are indeed the backbone of the economic sector, which primarily includes fishing, hospitality and agriculture on a larger scale, and infrastructure, entertainment and domestic labour on a smaller scale.
We endow them with great responsibility by recognising this fact. This requires each one of us to treat them with dignity and care, and not as secondary, dispensable citizens, increasing their vulnerability.
This incident about some migrant labourers who were constructing a church on a contract basis during the Covid lockdowns will give you some insight into their attitudes.
Despite the unavailability of raw materials needed for their work, these workers were willing to do any other job and not remain idle. They wanted to make up for the food, payment and safety provided to them by their gracious master.
Migrant labourers, as the economic backbone of society, are committed 24*7 to building a better world and a dignified future. The least we can do is include them as our own, and recognise and value their contribution.
The migrant labourers move out of the comfort zone of their homes in search of a brighter future. They sacrifice their youth, ambitions and creativity to enrich our lives.
Motivating them might be the payment that they receive at the end of the day, but it isn’t sufficient to meet their needs. Thus, we need to change our perspective towards them, categorically.
Let's invite and accept them into our social circles, temples, mosques and churches.
And as Pope Francis tells us through his message on the 108th World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2022, welcoming migrants and refugees will energise and revitalise our communities and enliven our spiritual and other celebrations.
Migrants come with their experiences from different places; they come with their expressions of varied faiths and beliefs; they come with their traditions and customs; and sometimes preconceived ideas of God, human persons, life and its intricacies, etc. that can help us look at the world differently.
We need to continuously ask ourselves what we can do for the migrant workers and what we must stop doing.
What we can stop doing, again quoting Pope Francis, is continue our efforts in the arms race, which will surely be difficult considering the competition we have got ourselves into.
We need to pause economic colonialism, which has persisted for the longest time. Let us be concerned about the availability of resources like water, air, land and other resources and take care of them instead of plundering them.
Some migrants willingly choose to move to their destination state or country, but there are many migrants who flee from their origin state or country due to poverty, fear or desperation.
The onus is on us to make them comfortable and provide for their basic requirements. Ensuring the common good and respect for their fundamental rights is every community's responsibility.
More than that it should also be the goal and practice of a good politician to be a powerful voice for their causes. Politicians need to be authentic and farsighted where the most vulnerable are considered and not be driven by personal gain.
Apart from taking care of migrants moving into Goa, stakeholders have a responsibility towards Goans who move out of state as migrants to other states and countries. These migrants could be our relatives.
They should be guided while choosing to migrate. They should be empowered sufficiently so that they make a well-informed choice.
Living in peace and dignity is our right, and therefore, we need to consciously make that effort to offer a conducive environment to our brothers and sisters who come to our locality in search of home or work.
Being mindful of qualms arising due to past notorious happenings in relation to migrants, we need to also exercise prudence and caution while being kind and considerate. Migrant labourers aren’t our enemies, but rather our friends.
(Carlos Luis is a priest belonging to the Society of the Catholic
Apostolate (Pallottine) and is currently studying for a licentiate
degree in Moral Theology. He comments on social and moral issues.)