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Opinion

‘No choice left’: Bundelkhand workers on the move again for work

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Despite the grim Covid situation, the Bundelkhand region, which spans districts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, is witnessing a massive migration of workers to the country’s megacities in search of employment, villagers and activists say. of the region. The Madhya Pradesh government claims to have taken a number of measures to provide employment for workers.

Migration is reported to have increased after Diwali. What has added to the migration is a lack of employment opportunities, damage to the kharif crop due to below-average rains, and a lack of hope for a good yield from rabi crops as well. According to social activists, more than 40% of the workers who had returned to their places of origin during the confinement have returned to cities such as Delhi, Ghaziabad, Agra, Gurugram, Chandigarh, Indore, etc. region of.

Biharikheda and Udaipura are two neighboring towns in the Sagar district located about 30 km from the district headquarters. These towns look almost deserted these days. The situation is such that even the increase in Covid cases in these cities has not deterred migrant workers from returning to these cities, according to villagers.

These two towns have a population of around 2,500 each and more than 50% of the people have once again migrated to the big cities in search of employment.

These peoples are not alone in the district or region that are witnessing mass migration. A similar situation prevails in other districts of the region, be it Tikamgarh, Chhatarpur, Panna, Niwari or Damoh.

Satu Ahirwar, 83, a resident of Biharikheda, said: “I have three children and all of them with their families went to Indore after Diwali in search of work on construction sites. There is no job here and it is difficult to survive with almost no job or income. The savings they had were spent during this period. I only have one acre of agricultural land, which is not enough to feed us all. “

He said: “When I heard about the alarming increase in Covid cases in Indore, I called my children and urged them to come back, but they did not listen to my advice and said there was no point staying here without work and income. Now I can only pray to God to protect them. “

Kalu Ahirwar, 63, a Udaipura resident, was sitting outside his home alone. He said, “My son Jhalkan stayed here for four months, but he returned to Delhi after Diwali. I spoke to him on the phone a couple of days ago. He said there was talk of a lockdown in Delhi. If it happened, he would move to Gurugram, but at least he would have a job and earn. “

Kalu said: “I have three acres of agricultural land that is not irrigated. My youngest son helps me in agriculture. When the kharif crop was destroyed, we sowed wheat and gram seeds, but we don’t have enough water for irrigation. I don’t know what would happen to my harvest of Rabi. The future looks bleak. “

Tulsi Ahirwar from the village with his family has once again returned to Delhi leaving their house closed and so have Bhaiyaram, Ram Kisan and Santosh.

Bhagwat Gond, 26, a member of the tribe, with five other young men from this village, plans to go to Chennai.

Gond said: “We mainly do cover-up work. We had some jobs until Diwali, but now we don’t have any jobs to earn money. That is why we have no other option but to migrate again ”.

Vinod Yadav, a former sarpanch from Udaipura village, said: “MNREGA was of some help to migrant workers, but this is not enough to provide them with a good income. While they earn Rs 300 to Rs 400 per day in big cities, they earn Rs 190 per day under MNREGA and that is also subject to job availability. In our town, the river dries up with the arrival of winter. If some stop dams are built here for irrigation purposes, agriculture itself can provide good employment opportunities. It is dangerous to migrate to other cities during the pandemic situation, but how long can you wait for the situation to improve? “

Prem Choudhary, a resident of Srinagar village in Tikamgarh district who returned to Gurugram said by phone: “During the confinement I was not able to get much work with MNREGA as sarpanch and panchayat secretary offer work only to those whom they want to favor. . I got 20 kg of rice through the public distribution system (PDS). We have about 1.5 acres of farmland that my father cultivates. These are hardly enough to help us sustain our lives, especially when I have six children. “

Chintaman Ahirwar, a resident of Durgapur village in Tikamgarh district, has a similar story to tell.

He said, “I couldn’t have waited long. Since there is Unlocking everywhere and there are jobs available that can generate good income for me, there is no use wasting time here when there is barely a good job available here. “

The supervising engineer of the Department of Water Resources, Anil Agarwal, said: “The bodies of water that consist of dams, ponds, etc. they fill below their level this year. In Chhatarpur, Tikamgarh and Panna these are filled to only 50% of capacity, while in Sagar and Damoh it is around 70%. Irrigation for rabi cultivation through bodies of water may not be as available as was observed last year.

Khajuraho train station manager Man Singh Meena said: “The Khajuraho-Delhi-Kurukshetra express these days carries migrant workers from Bundelkhand. After Diwali, the number of passengers has multiplied. On average, between 400 and 500 tickets are sold for this train and about 95% of the tickets are taken only by the workers. At the nearby Harpalpur station, the Sampark kranti express also transports a good number of migrant workers from various parts of Bundelkhand ”.

Chhatarpur Bus Association spokesman Arvind Goswami said: “About 10 buses pass almost daily with migrant workers from Chhatarpur, Bada malehra, Gadi malehra, Nowgaon cities, etc. In the neighboring district of Panna the situation is the same.

Social worker Gyanendra Tiwari said: “In Bundelkhand, migration has always been a big problem despite the high demands of the respective governments. Even amid the Covid pandemic, people are migrating to big cities in search of jobs. More than 50% of migrant workers have returned to the big cities so far, while the trend is only increasing day by day ”.

He said: “There is not a single village in this region from where migration has not taken place. During the shutdown, the central government and the state government had allocated huge sums for the MNREGA’s work, but their implementation was barely visible at ground level due to malpractices and corruption ”.

Another social worker, Rajkumar Ahirwar from Tikamgarh, said: “The Kharif crop was destroyed in Bundelkhand and so far no compensation has been given to the farmers and due to less rain the prospects for the Rabi crop are also not seen. all right. In such circumstances, the poor have no choice but to migrate to the big cities in search of employment. By creating job opportunities, more irrigation facilities and curbing corruption in the implementation of government schemes, the government can reduce the level of migration.

Sagar Division Commissioner Mukesh Kumar said: “The state government is trying to provide job opportunities for migrant workers through the MNREGA and other government schemes. I will continue to speak with the district collectors in this regard and will try to provide them with livelihoods here.

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