BALANGIR: A few months back, they had left their workplaces to escape the lockdown misery brought about by the second Covid wave. Now, people from the rural landscapes of Balangir are migrating to other states in droves due to absence of livelihood options even though a third wave looms large.
Thirty-year-old Jhasketan Budek of Bhuliabandh village in Belpada block had returned from Ahmedabad when the lockdown was imposed to contain the second wave. He spent several months in his village but found no work to eke out a living. “I will soon return to Ahmedabad to work in a steel factory. Why starve in the village when I will be paid good money there,” Budek said.
Similarly, Gobardhan Chhatriya of Turekela block said he along with other villagers is going to Mumbai to work at a construction site. “I was in my village since the last six months due to Covid-19 restrictions. During my stay here, I found that earning money is a tough task in the village,” he said.
Like Budek and Chhatriya, thousands of people, especially youths in the age group of 20 to 35 years, have started heading to other states seeking greener pastures due to lack of adequate work in migration-prone Balangir district.
According to a survey of Balangir Gramodyog Samiti, a non-profit organisation working in the district, a large number of people from rural areas are moving to Mumbai, Surat, Rajkot, Dehradun, Mussourie, Varanasi, Nagpur and Raipur. Most of them will work in construction sites as wage labourers, pull rickshaw carts and work in hotels. Several people have migrated to Varanasi and Bhadoi (Uttar Pradesh) to work as labourers in the carpet industries.
Secretary of the samiti Sashi Bhusan Purohit said the survey conducted from July 15 to 25 in 10 blocks of the district - Turekela, Bangomunda, Muribahal, Titilagarh, Deogaon, Patgagarh, Loisingha, Khaprakhol, Belpada and Saintala found that inadequacy of MGNREGA in the district, erratic and scanty rainfall and lack of alternative job opportunities are pushing the youths to migrate.
Those covered under the survey say works under MGNREGA are not available in the villages. Besides, people are not getting wages from the rural job scheme. In absence of livelihood, youths prefer to migrate to big cities. Over 20,000 workers have migrated from Balangir in July. Most of the young migrants are heading to big cities to work in shopping malls, Purohit added.
However, the district administration claimed otherwise. PD DRDA of Balangir Sushant Singh said the administration is providing work under MGNREGA to all those who demand work. But, some people are still migrating to cities as the income there is much higher. “Efforts are on to cover the maximum people in rural areas through MGNREGA,” he added.