BHOPAL: As the number of cases of corona infection is increasing in the northern states, the migrant labourers from four districts of Bundelkhand—Damoh, Panna, Chhatarpur and Tikamgarh—have started returning to their homes.
Migration is one of the biggest problems of the Bundelkhand region, especially from these four districts. People of this region migrate to the states of Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and other northern states. Every year, lakhs of people migrate to these states.
Now, the number of infected people is increasing in the northern states and, once again, the labourers are forced to leave their workplaces to return to their native villages to save their lives.
‘Water scarcity, lack of employment’
MLA Brijendra Singh Rathore informed Free Press that the labourers of this region migrate to other states because of water scarcity and very little opportunity for employment in the region. He added that, in the past year, the monsoon had not been good and the farmers had not able to earn a reasonable sustenance from their agriculture produce. Added to that, the corona pandemic had damaged the lives of the farmers and the labourers beyond redemption in 2020 and it had again struck back with even more infections this year.
Rathore asked that the state government prepare a special model for the region to at least provide ‘roti’ to these migrants. He added that the work under the MGNREGA scheme was not sufficient to cover all the migrant labourers and an alternative arrangement must be made to provide relief to them.
‘Between the devil and the deep sea’
Social activist Pawan Ghuwara raised the issue to feudalism and starvation in the region. “In some parts of the districts of Tikamgarh and Chhatarpur, feudalism is at its peak. People who are affected by the problem did not want to come back to their villages. For them, it is, literally, a choice ‘between the devil and the deep sea’. If they come back to the village, they will become slaves; and, if they do not, they will die due to corona and starvation in the states where they are working”.
Another activist, Vikram Choudhary, claims that reverse migration has started in the region and the migrants are coming back in large numbers. These labourers are crushed where they were working by corona infection and also by the domination of the contractors. And now, after coming back to their native villages, they are again caught between food and starvation.