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Bihar migration issue shifts from farm lands to towns

Bihar migration issue shifts from farm lands to towns
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Bihar Migration Issue Shifts From Farm Lands To Towns. A decade ago, thirty-year old Rampravesh Paswan migrated in search of livelihood from a...

Patna: A decade ago, thirty-year old Rampravesh Paswan migrated in search of livelihood from a non-descript village of Muzzafarpur District in Bihar to the city of Delhi. After the predictable initial struggle, he managed to become an auto rickshaw driver and earn enough to meet the needs of his family that awaits his return every year. "I am the sole bread-earner in my family, supporting my wife, three daughters and a son. I was working as a labourer in my village earlier, but didn't earn enough to meet our needs.

In Delhi, autos runs on meter, leaving me with enough income at the day's end," says Rampravesh, who also manages to squeeze in a 10-15 day break from the city each year to visit his family. "That is the price I pay to sustain my family," shares Rampravesh.

Rampravesh and his family are not alone. There are dozens of families in Sahebganj's Husseypur Parni Chhapra Village who live out this work life. Despite the lack of even modest livelihood opportunities, villagers migrate to states like Punjab, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Gujarat and even to far-off states like Jammu and Kashmir. "We do not get work here and the menial jobs available do not pay enough to meet our needs. Men and boys migrate to other states and work either as drivers or factory workers. We manage to visit our village once a year," said thirty-two year old Sohar Paswan from Chhapra.

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has also failed the hopes of these villagers. "I haven't even got my Labour Card till date; hundred days of employment is a far -away dream. In a twelve month-period, we do not get work for even thirty days, leaving us with no option but to migrate to other better-off states in search of work and money," rues thirty-five year old Basdev Mahto, who lives in the same block.

Mahto's son has now taken over his father's role and works in a factory in Delhi. If Mahto's son takes a month off and visits his family, they have to borrow money on interest to make ends meet. The implementation of MGNREGA is limited to slogans and to the files of Panchs and Sarpanchs. Many labourers complain of corruption - often, they get wages for fifteen days of work when they have worked for thirty days. The digging work which was earlier being done by labourers has now been replaced by tractors.

Villagers who, on the one hand, have lost their trust in such schemes, have also, on the other, been betrayed by farming. With the agrarian crisis looming large, many have opted out of farming and migrated out of the village.

Undoubtedly, MGNREGA has helped decrease migration, but to a very small extent. As per a survey conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation in July 2013, 0.12 members per family have returned to their villages to work under MGREGAS.

In Bihar, the number is 0.65 per family which represents unskilled labourers working previously in the states of Punjab and Haryana. But with increasing population, the issue of migration still remains unaddressed. The decline in the number of migrant farm labourers to Punjab has not translated into lower migration rates from Bihar. It has merely shifted the migration trend from the farming sector to the industrial sector, says a report by Girish Kumar and Pranab Banerji from New Delhi-based Indian Institute of Public Administration.

Based on research conducted in 2009-10, the report states that 4.42 million people from Bihar migrate every year to various states of India and that migration has actually gone up. The research, titled "A study of Bihari migrant labourers: Incidence, Causes and Remedies", says the preferred destinations of Bihari workers have shifted from Punjab to industrialized states like Delhi, Maharashtra and Gujarat. It claims Bihari labourers who now migrate to Punjab prefer industrial towns such as Ludhiana and Jalandhar rather than agricultural towns.

The statistics do not, however, reflect the difficulties faced by the likes of Rampravesh and their families. The Charkha Development Communication Network feels that thee is an urgent need to understand the root cause of the issue that leads to migration - be it lack of education and employment opportunities or the loopholes in the schemes. Only then will the families be able to stay together in this remote village of Bihar.

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