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Crimes by migrants, who are hard to be tracked, are a major issue across the world. They are preferred over locals for petty works by employers everywhere. They are a huge work force available at a cheap price. Besides the cheap labour, another advantage for employers with such migrant workers is the least accountability. The employer never holds the risk of being questioned by relatives of the worker in case something goes wrong with the latter during the work. Migrant labourers – be it India or the US – always lack documents to support their identity or nationality. This disadvantage pushes them into exploitation by the employers. They end up working for less as they have no other option. No employer would buy local labour force if the same job can be done at cheaper price by migrant workers. The only hurdle the employer faces is when workers commit crimes, which is easy for them for not having proper record of identity and address. It is very hard for the police to track them on the basis of records available with the employer. Shillong police are in the hunt for a rapist who was a construction worker and the only clue the police have now is his name ‘Prem’!

It’s a huge challenge for the police to check crimes committed by migrant workers, thanks to the contractors’ and employers’ apathy in obtaining labour license before engaging them in the work. But the problem is more complex than it seems. An easy solution is hard to come by because there are thousands of employers in Meghalaya enjoying the benefit of cheap labour from the migrant workers. They, including the powers that be, can make the migrants work for less citing they did not hold proper documents. For poor migrants, something is better than nothing. Imagine a day when every worker in the state will hold a labour license. There will be no migrant worker with dubious or doubtful identity. The result –construction cost will skyrocket, which, in turn, will affect the economy as a whole. Rather than adopting bullying tactics against the migrant workers, greater emphasis should be laid on educating the employers on the need to employ more and more local workers as well.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on April 19, 2014)