In Goa, villagers plan anti-migrant gram sabha, public meet
Migration is emerging as a key political point in Goa with natives of a beach village in south Goa planning a public meeting and a gram sabha to discuss “nefarious activities of migrants”, especially Lamanis of the Banjara community.
This comes soon after Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, at a public event, expressed concern over widespread migration to the state and said, “we are shrinking and their (migrant) population is increasing in large numbers”.
It all began in December when a man from the Lamani community, Vasu Malgimani, got a taxi permit to ply his vehicle at Benaulim. Protests started since then and have now reached a point where villagers are united against the community.
In turn, the Association of Lamanis says members of the community are “being targeted”. On Wednesday, the association called upon members of the community to spread out and conduct a survey on the number of Lamanis and Banjaras settled in the state and the professions they are involved or engaged in. The report of the survey will be discussed with the government, said the members of the association.
“Things were bad, but it looks like they fear the last profession that they hold in this bad economy, of operating tourist taxis, seems to be going away from them when a Lamani got a permit. They see the taxi business as a Goan business. This has escalated to a larger bias, and they want us to go away from their land,” said Suresh Rajput, President of the association.
“We want to assure Goans we are not anti-social and we are not here to take away any of their jobs. We can live together,” he added.
According to initial estimates with the community, there are about 1.5 lakh Banjaras in Goa, including the ones who come during the tourist season and leave when it ends.
Rajput, who has been living in Goa for 54 years, said the state has always been “very welcoming”, but adds that due to dwindling employment opportunities and a new generation “blaming everything on the community”, things have got rough.
Members of the community say the Lamanis, who are a group in the larger Banjara community, got their name from Laman —meaning salt — as they traditionally traded in salt.
Early this year, an advertisement in European newspapers about Goa as a tourist destination had the photograph of a Lamani. It angered many Goans with the social media rife with protests on the “wrong representation of the state”.
In Benaulim, the villagers have written to the panchayat, asking how activities of the migrants can be checked. According to local reports, Seby Fernandes, a villager, said at a meeting on Monday, “With the increasing number of migrants in the village, it would not be surprising to find Goans reduced to a minority”.
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