SAMBALPUR: Monsoon and irrigation systems have failed them and with no efforts on the part of State Government to provide them work under different job guarantee schemes, migration is the only option for the farmers of Western Odisha districts. And, the labour sardars seem to be having a flourishing time this year as reports of crop loss continue to be reported from different parts of the region.
With the fear of inability to repay the mahajans (private money lenders) after deficit rainfall haunting them, the farmers of rainfed areas of Nuapada, Balangir, Kalahandi districts and drought-prone areas of Padampur sub-division in Bargarh district have become soft targets of the labour sardars.
The labour sardars, who are on the prowl, trap the landless and poor peasants by making job assurances and paying money in advance.
The migration begins after celebration of the agrarian festival Nuakhai. Thousands of men and women leave behind the young and aged back home to venture into uncharted waters to earn their livelihood. Families without elderly members move out lock, stock and barrel sealing the main door of the house with mud wall.
Most of them are employed in brick kilns where they are made to work under inhuman conditions. Incidents of torture in captivity, horrific deaths and sexual abuse have failed to deter them from migrating every year to earn enough to feed their families.
According to sources, cash advance has already been paid to hundreds of farmers with Nuapada and Balangir districts topping the list.
Although labour contractors desiring to take people and employ them in industries outside State should avail licence from the Labour Department, very few follow the procedure. As a result, the number of people moving out of the State goes unccounted for.
District Labour Officer, Balangir, Madan Mohan Paik said 230 licenses have been issued to labour contractors this year. Officially 17,500 people will migrate but their number could be much higher considering the illegal trade.
A survey undertaken by NGOs revealed that more than 1.5 lakh people migrate every year.
The continuing trend of migration has only exposed the failure of the Government machinery to implement various development and welfare schemes which could hold back the migrants.