They head to the city, for survival

SOCIETY

The train sets off from the Chamarajanagar railway station at 7.10 am. It reaches Mysore by 8.40 am.

This one-and-a-half hour’s journey offers great perspectives on the state of affairs in rural India, and particularly rural Karnataka. Many of the train’s passengers are labourers in search of daily wages.

There are as many as eleven railway stations along the route, apart from the main Mysore railway station.


In the first nine, you can see hordes of people in a mad rush to board the train, while in the next three, they are all pushing and shoving each other, in a hurry to get off from the train.

The train, with bogies varying between 16 and 18 in number, stops at each of the stations for a mere five minutes. Upon reaching Mysore, the passengers begin to alight at Ashokapuram, Chamarajapuram and the main railway station.

Every day, over 3,000 labourers travel to Mysore. People from Chamarajanagar district and Nanjangud taluk’s villages all take this train to reach Mysore, work all day to make their ends meet, and then board the 6.45 pm train from the Mysore railway station. The evening train is thus, equally crowded.

Izzat pass scheme
The Izzat pass scheme that was introduced by the then railway minister Mamata Banerjee has come as a boon to these workers. Any person with a BPL card can pay a mere Rs 25 per month and travel up to 100 km by train. The Chamarajanagar railway station alone saw as many as 3,500 passes being distributed this year. In Nanjangud, as many as 1,500 people have got themselves these cards.

However, there are many travelling by this train who have land of their own. Some of these agriculturists have given up on farming, in spite of owning anywhere between five and ten acres, and continue to go to Mysore looking for work. People from Badanaguppe, Konanur, Kavalande, Narasambudi, Chinnadagudihundi, Tandavapura and Kadakola earlier raised ragi, maize and other crops. They have also given up on dairy farming and sericulture.

A Khadi centre that was set up in Badanavalu as a tribute to Gandhi’s visit to the village is also not functioning well. The unit, which provided jobs to as many as 600 people, employs a mere 30-40 people now. The lure of the city has spared very few people.

I ask a co-passenger who has set out to Mysore as to why this was happening. Explains Kavalande’s Puttaswamy, “It is impossible to live on agriculture. All the agricultural workers in my village earn more money in Mysore. It is impossible for us in the village to match the same. Initially, I also worked hard on my farm. Crops failed, and my borrowings increased. I got myself an Izzat pass and set out to Mysore for work.”

Draw their attention to schemes such as the Rs 5,000 for small farmers, the Employment Guarantee Scheme, subsidised manure etc, and most farmers point out that these are not properly distributed, and often don’t reach beneficiaries.

A youngster points out that under the Employment Guarantee Scheme, they get paid Rs 135, where as in Mysore, they get paid a minimum of Rs 230 for construction work. Also, under the scheme, the money is paid only for 100 days of a year, he explains.

I notice another elderly person, and ask him why he was travelling to Mysore, and a similar story is repeated. This man married off his daughter at the age of 12, and his son inlaw and his son also travel on the same train, for work in Mysore.

I point out to him that it was not right to get his daughter married off at such a young age, and that there were several schemes for young women including free education and other facilities. But, they don’t seem to have reached many sections of society.

There are several women who travel by this train too, all alighting mostly in Mysore’s Ashokapuram and Chamarajapuram areas in a hurry. Because the train doesn’t connect some villages in the region, some of these women depend on autorickshaws, lorries and trucks to reach the nearest station.

The train, I realise, as I reach the end of the journey, holds a mirror unto the problems that rural Karnataka still faces. The many schemes that are yet to reach people, the fading of many dreams, the toning down of expectations, and above all, the need to survive. With an Izzat pass in hand, of course.

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