The problem of migrant workers is not to be defined in terms of a choice be tween village and city. It is about a condition in which they are neither part of the village, nor part of the city. Privileged migrants can belong anywhere. They can feel equally at home in Sydney, Dubai and Toronto..and move seamlessly bet ween Gurgaon’s Cyber Hub and Koramangala’s pubs. They are in ‘home towns’ when they come to Patna, Patiala and Palakkad. Villages are their ancestral lands. But the migrant labourers are literally called pardesi/bidesi at home and pardesi outside. ‘Those who have gone to other lands’, and ‘those who have come from other lands’. Outsiders in the village. Outsiders in the city.
The usual way of seeing the relation ship between migrant workers and the village is the economic one. But this entails only one part of the problem. Migration is a response to a deeply sociocultural malady too. The Indian village creates a horrendous condition for people; it impels them to migrate. It makes the lives of women, Dalits and other disempowered castes an unspeakable hell. It is a grave yard of individual freedom and equality, the deathbed of justice and dignity. It cannot see Dalits wearing a new dress, or slippers, or riding a horse. It cannot take women walking about freely, or ‘laughingoutloud’. Ideas and people cannot meet or mix, new winds cannot blow. It is ad verse to love, life and freedom of mind. Hierarchies are so entrenched in village life that any possibility of equality becomes impossible.
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