Labour shortage hits Punjab paddy season

Migrant labourers, mainly from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar who have  been the mainstay of the state’s agricultural economy for the past several decades, have not come to Punjab this time.

Desperate farmers in Punjab are making a beeline for railway stations across the state waiting for migrant labourers and are offering double the wages, besides liquor and drugs.

Source said the farmers were offering wages up to Rs 2,000 for transplanting paddy in one acre, which is more than double the wages given last year.

The Agriculture Department estimates a requirement of nearly seven lakh labourers for sowing paddy over 26 lakh hectares in Punjab this season. Only 50 per cent of the requirement has reached Punjab so far, according to estimates.

Ironically, in the midst of these frenetic activities, a special appeal has come from the Bihar government asking migrant labourers from the state to come back home.
The special message is in the form of an appeal on behalf of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi asking the migrant labourers, who want to return home, but are being held back as bonded/forced labour in different places outside the state, to approach a special office in Bihar Bhawan in Delhi.

The appeal, which has been published in select newspapers, promises government intervention in getting them freed and transporting them back home on government expenditure.

A spokesman of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions said the Bihar government’s appeal was a welcome step and was aimed at striking at the unfair labour practices in some states where labourers were facing oppression.

One of the several reasons for shortfall of migrant labour in Punjab has been attributed to the success of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, particularly in Bihar which has started absorbing a large chunk of native labour within the state.

In order to tide over this crisis, the Punjab government has provided 700 paddy transplanting machines to the farmers so far by offering a subsidy of Rs 1.5 lakh for machines that cost between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 12 lakh.

Agriculture experts believe that introduction of technology on a mass scale was the only solution to mitigate the shortfall of farm hands in the long run.

DH News Service

Comments (+)