news Tuesday, May 26, 2015 - 05:30
    Earlier this month, three members of a family in Parampuzha in Kerala’s Kottayam district were allegedly killed by a migrant from Firozabad in Uttar Pradesh. What has followed in the state’s media after the tragic incident is a narrative that migrant labourers from other states in India are a danger to the state. Given that Kerala is a "money-order" economy surviving on foreign remittances, irony just drank itself to death.   In the past few days, Kerala’s media has alarmingly reported that the increase in the crime rate in the state is directly proportional to the increase in number of migrant labourers.   "I have seen media alleging that they have HIV, boost local sex industry and commit crimes like murder and rape. Have migrant labourers introduced us to  these things?"   For last few months Kerala media have been alarming the public that the crime rate in the state and number of migrant labourers here are proportional.  The endless debates and discussions on prime time have generated immense hatred for migrant labourers in the state.   Recently a prominent Malayalam newspaper reported that women are harassed by migrant labourers in trains. But according to state crime records data, in the 13,880 cases of crimes against women registered in the past 10 months, 85% of the suspects are men from Kerala.       Media reports also allege that most of the labourers are criminals with criminal cases registered against them in their native state. So far, no proof has been  provided to support such claims.   Researchers and activists who are studying the migrants in Kerala are obviously miffed.   “With such huge migration, social tension is obvious. There is no organisation to protect them, so it is easy to blame them.”   “I have seen media alleging that they have HIV, boost local sex industry and commit crimes like murder and rape. Have migrant labourers introduced us to  these things? They have come here for a livelihood, to escape poverty. We should take care of them rather than attacking them with racist allegations,” says N Laxmi Priya, an activist and scholar who works with migrant communities in Kerala.   BRP Bhaskar, veteran journalist and activist, says that the labourers are prone to committing crimes, but they cannot be made scapegoats. “With such huge migration, social tension is obvious. There is no organisation to protect them, so it is easy to blame them,” he says.   According to the labour Ministry, there are over 25 lakh domestic migrant labourers (DML) in Kerala today, with an annual arrival rate of 2.35 lakh. Over 75% of the DML come from five states: West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa. It is a work force consisting almost entirely of single males aged between 18 to 35 years, and they are fairly mobile within Kerala.   Laxmi says that the living conditions of the migrant labourers are abysmally poor. “They often live in crowded rooms with poor water supply and sanitation facilities. Only few rooms have proper kitchens. Most of them bathe in open areas,” she says. Since they are not able to afford house rents, they are forced to live in unhygienic conditions, leading to several health issues.   “Rather than developing hatred, why can't we strive for a proper system for them? We should have them enumerated, maintain proper records and create a  union for them,” says Bhaskar.   All images used for representation   Also read: On what basis did the Kerala HC say that being a Maoist is no crime? Explainer
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