Debate must continue

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Nobody even the government has the right of stopping a debate, for it is an essential part of the democratic tradition. Even if the people are unwilling, we have to find ways and means to generate debate in every aspect of our life and collective decisions has to be necessarily preceded by widespread debate. And nobody should attempt to stifle a debate for such an act would be against the democratic values. We at IFP have been seriously trying to kickstart a debate on the migrants issue and we shall continue our efforts. We have talked about our civilisational history and the untenability of protective walls against the pressure of culture invasion or migrants. We have discussed the impact of migrants despite the presence of the Inner Line Permit system and the unique case of Tripura, where the indigenous population was reduced to a minority in their own land. What we are trying to say is that with or without the Inner Line permit (ILP) migrants finds a way of entering the region and establishing a foothold even to the extent of controlling the business bloc. Let us further the debate by turning our attention to Nagaland again. A study has revealed that migrants, either legal or illegal, are fast gaining access to the business establishments across the state. In a major survey conducted by the Nagaland Department of Evaluation in 2006 on the employment in the unorganised sector in three district headquarters of Kohima, Dimapur and Mokokchung, altogether 13,380 establishments/shops were surveyed. The total number of non-Naga workforce earning their livelihood in these three sample districts was 45,815, with an annual income of Rs 450.60 crore. The immigrants were employed in different professions, such as business, labour, sales, carpentry, driving, tailoring, barbering, tea ferrying, mechanics, milkmen, cobblers, painters, paper hawkers, teachers, electricians, and masons. Further, a survey conducted by the Nagaland Directorate of Agriculture in 2003 revealed that out of 23,777 business establishments, nearly 71.73 per cent were owned and run by non-Nagas, with the Nagas owning only 28.27 per cent. Migrants not only provide cheap labour, but are more willing to take up jobs which native workers normally avoid. As a result, unemployment among unskilled and semi-skilled natives has also gone up. The presence of migrants is increasingly being felt in the major marketing areas of Dimapur and control businesses that deal with second-hand clothes, bamboo, thatch, chicken, fish and vegetables. Several business establishments bearing local names on the sign boards were actually owned and run by the migrants. Since there is a regulation disallowing non-locals to buy land or operate businesses in the state, the benami system comes into play. The non-local businessmen use the Naga landlords as a front to operate in Nagaland. There is certainly a problem with the Nagas as regards work culture or business as it is with the Manipuris. Again, there is the case of the `Sumias`™. The `Sumias`™ are the children of intermarriage between the Sumi Naga tribe and Muslim migrants. These migrants settle along the border areas and are engaged in agricultural activities. They are employed in the paddy fields and after staying in the areas for a few years get married to local Sumi girls. And when their offspring are born, they name them after the Sumi tribe. And as such, the emergence of `Sumias`™ has become very controversial and sensitive in Nagaland. To sum up, migrants are slowing overrunning the socio-economic space of Naga society despite the presence of the Inner Line Permit. Our main contention is that, the Inner Line Permit system is not the solution for containing the issue of migrants. The migrants and the non-locals will continue to seep in whatever protective walls one erects. So, we should be re-examining our land laws so as to strengthen the position of the locals and by revisiting our work-culture.

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