By Barnes Mawrie

The recent ghastly incident at St. Xavier’s College campus in Um-oid, Mawkyrwat on February 25, where a group of local people killed a non-local labourer and injured seven others, casts a slur on our State in the eyes of the world. The incident demonstrates the lack of respect for human life and a sense of false insecurity displayed by the local people or probably a display of jealousy. It is evident that these outsiders were seen as usurpers of jobs meant for local people. While the aspirations of the local people that jobs should be reserved primarily for them, is legitimate but the method of implementing it is rather barbaric and not in keeping with a civilized society. Those persons concerned should have approached the College authorities and the contractor and expressed their reservations to them. Thereby a peaceful solution or a compromise would have been reached and no violence would have taken place. To resort to violence of this kind leading to loss of life is outright condemnable. Perhaps it is good to reflect on the root causes of such incidents which take place from time to time.

In my opinion there are two important factors that lead to such unfortunate actions. First of all, most local contractors prefer to employ non local labourers because they are hard working and they do a fine job. On the other hand, local labourers in general, are more lethargic and their performance is not up to the mark. I have personally seen our Khasi labourers reaching the work place as late as 10 am. Then they spend a lot of time in smoking and taking tea and their lunch break extends to more than an hour. These days of smart phones, these labourers waste a lot of precious working time surfing their mobile phones or playing games. For this reason, a job that could be done in one month takes two to three months to complete. This implies that the contractor has to spend more money on labour and in this lose-lose situation, he would soon become bankrupt and would have to close down his business sooner or later. Which entrepreneur would dare to undertake such a suicidal enterprise?

Secondly, it is evident that non local labourers do a better job when it comes to every kind of work, masonry, tiles and marble laying and woodwork as well. There is a lot of professionalism in what they do. Local labourers tend to underperform in any work whatsoever although there are some who are commendable. It is not because our local labourers lack expertise or ability to do a fine job, but solely because they take their responsibility too lightly and not with a spirit of professionalism. With this sort of attitude towards work, no contractor would be inclined to recruit more local labourers as they do a haphazard job and that would mean a bad reputation for them. These two factors are responsible for the influx of non-local labourers into the State. Had our local labourers been efficient in their work, no contractor would have hesitated in recruiting them.

What I would like to recommend to our people here is, “stop influx of non-local labourers not with threats and violence, but with a change of attitude towards work.” Our local people need to imbibe a spirit of hard work and professionalism in whatever they do. Our youth complain that they have no jobs, but they should realize that if they display the right attitude to work, there would be many who will be willing to recruit them. Our young generation are so crazy about aping the people of the western world especially in dresses, hair styles, food habits, entertainment and life styles. These things are a wasteful exercise for they do not help them at all in life. Instead, they should learn to imbibe western values of hard work, punctuality, discipline and a sense of value of time. Why are they not willing to learn even from these non-local labourers about the importance of hard work and perfectionism? I strongly condemn this act of barbarism and I hope that such incidents will not take place again.

Just because of this incident, the College has to be shut down indefinitely and who then is at the losing end? Our own students are the ones who suffer. After the educational loss caused by the pandemic lockdown, they now have to suffer another loss. This misfortune could have been avoided if our people had had the right mind to take the correct step to solve the problem. Let me end with a beautiful quote by E. F. Schumacher who says: “any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” History has vindicated that positive changes are brought about by men and women of peace and not by barbarism.

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