Bypoll leaves Bellary farmers in 'labour pain'

Making hay

On poll beat: Women from Bandihatti village rest on a road median at Cowl Bazaar in Bellary.DH photo

Proliferating mining activity had dealt a severe blow to farming in the district. While large swathes of land were consumed to dig out ore, farm workers too found a ‘lucrative’ occupation in mining.

However, all that had become things of the past with the Supreme Court suspending mining in Bellary. It is now the turn of bypoll to bother farmers.

With workers swapping their jobs for campaigning, farm activities have taken a beating during harvest time.

“It is the season to harvest cotton, chilli and other crops. Acute shortage of farmhands has compelled us to leave the standing crops in the field. Workers are not willing to toil in the fields even for a wage of Rs 100 a day,” rued Honnurappa, a farmer in Kolagal. He said the bypoll had dashed his hopes of reaping a harvest on time and he may not recover his investment.

The “duties” for the farmworkers are well-carved out in their new field. Female workers sit patiently in public meetings raising slogans for “their party” while men have the additional responsibility of distributing pamphlets and other campaign materials. Both are provided food and paid money at the end of the day.

“There is no reason for them to sweat out in the fields when they get easy money,” Honnurappa reasoned.

The entire village of Kolagal was ‘hired’ during the election rally in Cowl Bazaar on Tuesday. Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda and his predecessor B S Yeddyurappa solicited votes for BJP candidate, Gadilingappa during the rally.

Pitfalls

The profession, however, has its share of pitfalls. There is no guarantee that the ‘employers’ would honour their promise.

“We were brought from Bandihatti at 7 in the morning. The party workers had promised us breakfast and meal. But till now we are not given even a glass of water,” complained an aged woman in the procession.

She said hundreds of women had been to several villages in the last three days for campaigning. Fatigued, several of them were found resting on the road median at Cowl Bazaar.

It is not that farmworkers have willingly ventured into campaigning. Unremunerative wages, starving family and struggle to make both ends meet have compelled them to take up electioneering.

“We have  small children to feed back home. We may get some money if we walk with these people. Some bigwigs have come today and we may get meals also. Otherwise, we return home for meal in the noon,” a perspiring Rukminamma said.

It also came to light that residents of far-off villages in Hospet taluk had been ferried to Bellary in buses. The vehicles plied with the board ‘hired for marriage.’

Nevertheless, the loss for agriculture is gain for farm workers,  though temporarily. And it is a full stop to agricultural activities till campaigining comes to an end.

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