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Friday, December 20, 2013

‘No correct info on labourers migrating for advance loan’

At a time when large scale ‘distress’ migration goes on under the nose of district administrations in poverty-stricken KBK districts, Odisha government has no idea how many people have migrated to other States for work in lieu of loan advances.

In the recently concluded winter session of the Odissa Assembly, Labour Minister Bijoyshree Routray said no correct information was available with labour department about labourers who take loan before migrating for work.

However, the State government had granted licence to 3,046 contractors to take out 1,18,451 labourers to other States. As many as 242 complaints were received from labourers who were to subjected torture at workplace.

Mr. Routray informed that 538 labourers were rescued from other States and brought back to Odisha. As many as 57 criminal cases had been filed in different courts.

However, activists term the figure underestimated as actual population that migrated from States like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat was far bigger. And the recent chopping off of palms of labourers by labour contractors in Nuapada district indicates that the crisis of distress migration was much deeper.

According to a study conducted way back in 2001, 1.44 lakh people from KBK districts migrate every year. “But our estimate shows, more than 50,000 families (around 2.5 lakh population) migrate from districts like Bolangir, Nuapada, Kalahandi, Bargarh, Sonepur and Sambalpur every year. These workers are treated like animals in workplace as they do not have access to shelter, health and education for children,” said Umi Daniel, head of Migration Information and Resource Centre (MiRC), Aide et Action South Asia here on Wednesday.

Similarly, Sudarshan Chhotray, an activist who studies migration patterns, says the State government was not at all serious about safety of lakhs of hapless workers who migrate to other States. “Administration has not done any proper survey on migrating workers in KBK districts. In fact, the labour department hardly makes effort to keep track of labourers migrating under dubious circumstances,” Mr. Chhotray said. A regular survey would have enabled the government to plan immediate intervention.

Mr. Daniel said the much hyped Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act had failed to prevent the migration as the scheme does not generate employment for labourers when they need it the most – during monsoon. Besides, the scheme had failed to generate 100 days of employment in backward districts.

THE HINDU | December 19, 2013 00:00 IST | Updated: December 20, 2013 05:50 IST

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