SAMBALPUR: Nuakhai celebration is over and the crop season has not been good due to inadequate rainfall. The farmer families, who have been hit hard under the belly, have no option in sight but to pack their bags and leave for an alien land to work in uncharted waters.
The middlemen or Labour Sardars who are camping in the drought-hit villages for nearly a month now, are forcing the identified migrants to move out. The middlemen have already paid advance in cash and are no mood to wait.
Moreover, the extent of migration is feared to rise this time due to non-payment of wages under MGNREGS due to paucity of funds. The employment generation scheme, which could have stemmed migration to a large extent, has come to a halt in Sambalpur district. Moreover, though there has been rainfall in drought-prone blocks in the districts of Bargarh, Nuapada and Kalahandi, the rainfall has not been well-scattered which has already led farmers to cry hoarse about drought.
In the recent past, State Government officials across the region have admitted that payment of wages to labourers is pending under MGNREGS.
The farmers move out to work as labourers despite being aware of the hardship that await them. The migrants, who are caught in a ‘vicious cycle of poverty’, return home before Nuakhai with sordid tales of exploitation to share, but with little option at hand, they opt for it ever year to sustain their families. Many die a silent death working in inhuman conditions while others are reduced to bonded labourers with no hope of returning home. There have been tales of palms being chopped off, women being sexually abused, children held hostage, deaths at work place but there is no relief.
It is learnt that about three lakh people migrate from Khaprakhol, Tureikela, Muribahal, Titilagarh and Loisingha blocks of Balangir; Koman, Sinapali, Boden and Nuapada blocks of Nuapada besides Gaiselet, Jharbandh, Padampur, Paikmal and Bijepur blocks of Bargarh district.
But, there are a very few labour contractors registered in the district and the majority traffic human beings illegally.
The devastation notwithstanding, a section of youths who have options for employment and income prefer to migrate. The glitter of big cities has caught the fancy of these youths and they return to their villages with latest gadgets and flaunt them which lure many more youths to join the bandwagon.
The State Government continues to keep its eyes closed to the unhealthy trend although the Supreme Court had pulled it up for not having a policy in place to prevent atrocities on migrant labourers and maintain a database of them.
With another three months left before harvesting is taken up to ascertain the loss, the small and marginal farmers shall have little hope to thrive on and many would have left for work.