More than 30 million people in India are seasonal migrant labourers. Orissa’s share is 2.5 million and considered a key state for supply of migrant labour. While remittance from migrants from Surat stands at 2000crores, every second day there are news about how migrant workers are harassed, abused and exploited in various part of India. It is a small effort to deliberate and advocate on the issue of migration, its impact, development, policy framework and search for alternatives.
Chandra Dharua on his arrival at Balangir railways station
Satya Sunder Barik , The HinduAugust 29,2012
It took Chandra Dharua, a free man like anyone
else in Independent India, 22 years to have a taste of real freedom.
Forty-five-year-old Dharua, a migrant labourer
from Odisha, and his wife, who were in confinement in an Andhra Pradesh brick
kiln, arrived at the Bolangir railway station, about 350 km from here, on
After being forced to work as bonded labourers,
Dharua and his family members were rescued from the kiln in Medak district on
Dharua was just 23 in 1990 when he, along with his
wife, had set out to Andhra Pradesh to earn a living by working in a brick
manufacturing unit. The couple had hoped to return home within months. But the
owner did not let them go. Whenever they attempted to flee, they were subjected
to all kinds of torture. When Dharua boarded a train from Hyderabad along with
his wife, three daughters and one son on Tuesday evening, he cried inconsolably
as he had never imagined that he would return home one day, said Dayasagar
Pradhan, an official of Aide-et-Action, an NGO that played a key role in their
“I had taken a debt of Rs. 2000 for working in the
brick kiln 22 years ago. Initially I used to be paid Rs. 200 a week for food.
After 22 years, the amount was raised to Rs. 500 a week. One can easily gauge
the traumatic life we had all these years,” Dharua told this correspondent over
phone on his arrival at Bolangir.
The migrant labourer had only faint memories of
his village, relatives and friends. “I don’t know how my brothers look like
now,” an emotional Dharua said. He wondered whether his fellow villagers would
recognise him or not. But Dharua said he would start life afresh in his native
“We had never come across such a painful story of
migrants. Usually, a migrating labour family returns home after working for
four to five months. Dharua’s story is a severe form of bonded labour,” said
Umi Daniel, head of Aide-et-Action, who has been working on migration issues
Mr. Daniel said about one lakh people from western
Odisha districts migrate to work in the brick kilns of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil
Nadu and Karnataka every year. In a drought year, the number increases by 50
per cent, he said.
Along with Dharua, seven other families who had
been working continuously for three years in that kiln, were also rescued.
Andhra Pradesh has handed over bonded labour certificates to these migrant