SAMBALPUR: Labour Sardars are back to trap the farmers. With the mass agrarian festival of Western Odisha, Nuakhai, barely a week away and drought stalking many blocks in the region, there could not have been a better time for them to arrive in the distress zone.
The Sardars lure farmers to an alien land in exchange of ready cash that the farmers need to sustain after the cropping season.
With many blocks across the 10 districts of Western Odisha receiving a mere double digit rainfall over the last three months, the deficit has set the ground for drought and labour contractors to revisit the non-irrigated pockets.
In the worst affected blocks of Bangomunda and Belpada, which are infamous for mass migration, labour Sardars are all set to take advantage of the situation.
In fact, migration is a way of life for the landless peasants, small and marginal farmers after drought began revisiting them year after year.
Though there has been rainfall in other drought-prone blocks in the districts of Bargarh, Nuapada and Kalahandi, the rainfall has not been well-scattered. A closer look at the rainfall figures revealed that the showers were confined to particular day and not spread over the entire month which have landed peasants, small and marginal farmers at the cross-roads.
Interestingly, with more and more conventional brick kilns being banned in many states, the migrants are being engaged in construction industries.
However, working in brick kiln continues to be the preferred destination as it offers money per thousand bricks moulded rather than daily wage.
The kilns are the first choice, even though those migrating are forced to work and live in inhuman conditions and return home with gory tales of torture, sexual abuse and near deaths stories.
Year after year, the cases of torture and abuse fail to deter the farmers from taking the step. Taking advantage of the dire need of money for the farmers to celebrate Nuakahi, Sardars offer advances and pack them off just after the festival.
While a part of the advance is used for celebrating the festival, some cash is handed over to elderly members of the family, who are left behind at home to take care of the household and the land, hoping against hope that the land would turn productive again.