Friday, July 31, 2009

Sordid tale of migration continues to haunt State

Pradeep Baisakh

The sordid tale migrant labourers who leave their villages in order for better jobs continue narrate a grim situation that the State is facing. Kabi Khila is back in his village from Baleri district of Karnataka where he was taken by a labour agent to do manual work. But he is no more a normal person now; he has lost his mental balance. Colleagues from his village Paikphulbeda under Dasmantpur block of Koraput district, who also had migrated to the same place, say that Kabi was beaten and tortured by his employers, Manu Patra and Benu Patra of SNC agency in Karnataka leading to this situation.

Nearly 13 people from the village were taken to the place and trapped there since June 2007. They were only released after reports were published by The Pioneer in November 2007. "We were made to work for hours at a stretch in the Karnataka Power Corporation, were always abused in filthy languages and were also intermittently beaten up by the Patra brothers, mainly Manu Patra," informed Raghu Gadva, Alu Gadva and Maheswar Syrya of the village who managed to return home.

In Baringpali village of Nandapur bock of Koraput, six adolescent girls and seven lads were taken by the labour agent Prasanna Nayak to Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh in November 2007 to work on a railway track there. Not only were they paid wages less than the promised amount, a girl was slapped by the supervisor in the workplace.

In Khinimunga village of Nandapur block, one Kaliomoni Hontal died of diarrhoea in December, immediately after returning from Visakhapatnam of Andhra Pradesh where she had gone to work. Still, a good number of people were ready to leave for Andhra Pradesh in January, after the NREGS work was stopped in their village.

The matter was brought under the notice of the Collector Balakrushna Sahu who ordered the BDO to resume work so that the villagers did not leave the village for work. When asked about the reason behind leaving for other States, despite being aware of the risk involved, the labourers replied that insufficient or no work within the State forced them to leave their villages.

Despite tall claims of the State Government about its performance in the implementation of the NREGS, it has not been able to bring down the level of distressed migration. In the Barigipali village only one NREGS work of road construction came to the village in March 2007, which fetched barely 11 days of work to some people.

Similarly, in the Paikphulbeda not much work was allotted under the scheme that could meet the demand of work in the village. All these labourers said that if they were given 100 days of work in the village at the rate of Rs 70 per day, they would certainly not go out to work. Official statistics from Nandapur block of the district suggested that there are 25,550 households in the block, for which an amount of Rs 23 crores is required to provide 100 days of work to all the household in a year, but in the last fiscal year only Rs 3.73 rupees was sanctioned and Rs 1.99 crores were utilised. This shows that people have no option but to migrate if this is the state of implementation of NREGS.

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