GUWAHATI, June 9: What is the price that the people of Assam have been paying for their aversion to hard work to earn a living? It is the fact that the economic vacuum so created has been rapidly filled by illegal immigrants, a huge majority of whom – illegal Bangladeshis – have already become kingmakers in the State as the many reports and observations by experts have pointed out in recent times.
Talking to The Sentinel on this issue, Assam Public Works (APW) chief Abhijit Sarma said: “The agitation against illegal foreigners in the State has been going on since 1979. However, the Himalayan blunder we’ve been committing at the same time is that we’re shying away from doing any job that entails hard work like selling fish, selling meat, vending vegetables, rickshaw-pulling and pulling carts, carpentry and masonry, scrape dealing, working as drivers and handyman, working in agricultural farms etc. Such unorganized sectors engage a work force as huge as around 27.92 lakh in the State. The percentage of indigenous people working in such sectors is quite negligible.”
The APW leader further said: “Since 2014 we’ve been conducting a survey so as to ascertain how many local people are engaged in such sectors. We’ve excluded the two hill districts and the three districts of the Barak Valley from our survey. A 2.8-lakh-strong work force is engaged in selling fish, 2.63 lakh in selling meat, 2.11 lakh in vending vegetables, 7.63 lakh in doing construction works, 5.27 lakh in doing agricultural farming, 4.27 lakh working as drivers and handymen, 2.22 lakh in pulling rickshaws and carts, and around 95,000 in running mini-carriages in the State. Such workers constitute a huge work force of around 27.92 lakh, mostly people of suspected nationalities, against the total 17 lakh registered unemployed youths in the State. The presence of indigenous people in these sectors is very negligible.”
Elaborating its ramifications, Sarma said: “We’re becoming more and more handicapped. The situation has come to such a pass now that we can’t think of a week without people of suspected nationalities doing all such works for us. This gets clearly reflected in Guwahati and other urban areas in the State during Idd and other Islamic festivals. Since we’re going to be more and more dependent on people of suspected nationalities, our all-out efforts to drive them away will continue to be a futile exercise.”
Sarma further explained: “Our survey has revealed that every village has around 150 unemployed youths and around 80 per cent of them are averse to hard work.”
Till a decade ago, all construction workers in Assam were either from Bihar or Orissa. However, now suspected Bangladeshis have a monopoly in this sector in Assam as many observers believe. Is it not high time the people of Assam developed work culture if they are at all interested in saving the State from infiltrators? No weapon can be more lethal than depriving them of their livelihood in Assam to drive them away.