Shivya Naik, 65, like any other aged parent, craves the attention of his children amid the need for care, but none of his three sons can afford to stay with him.
Naik’s sons — Rajender, Pullender and Bhaskar — are away in Mumbai along with their wives to earn a living. All three have left their children with Naik and his wife.
“I see my sons and daughters-in-law only once a year, when they are here for a month or two. They go back to Mumbai or Pune in search of work. When I was young, I used to migrate in search of work and now my children are doing the same,” said Naik, a tribal from Meka Hanuman Thanda of Narayanpet block in Telangana’s Mahbubnagar district. “The cycle is repeating now.”
Many families like Naik’s, not only in his hamlet but also several villages across Mahbubnagar, Wanaparthy, Nagarkurnool and Gadwal districts, have been witnessing large-scale migration of agriculture labourers, mostly from tribal hamlets, to Mumbai, Pune, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. A “lucky few” manage to find work at construction sites in Hyderabad and other parts of Telangana.
‘Palamur labour’, as this migrant workforce is generally referred to, has a lot of demand in other parts of the country. Mahbubnagar was once known as Palamur and the name lives on through these migrant workers, who are known for their expertise in construction activities and hard work.
District authorities do not have structured data to show how many people migrate each year. “They don’t register their names with the labour department, so we don’t have the data of these migrants. But, I can say they are in substantial numbers,” Abdul Sayeed, deputy commissioner of labour, Mahbubnagar, told HT.
According to estimates by labour department insiders, up to 10 lakh people migrate from south Telangana districts in search of work every year. “The migration peaks during September and October. Most of them return to their villages if there are good rains during monsoon,” said a government official who declined to be named.
Mahbubnagar is reeling under drought this year, and insufficient water in Krishna river, which enters the district from neighbouring Karnataka, has broken the back of agriculture. Irrigation schemes such as Jurala, Nettempadu, Kalwakurthy Bhima and Koilsagar have been conceived on Krishna river, but some have become defunct due to insufficient water and others are incomplete.
“There is no agriculture work this season. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi government has promised to provide work in schemes such as Mission Kakatiya (restoration of tanks) and Mission Bhagiratha (laying of drinking water pipelines), but the authorities depend on machines rather than manpower,” said Anand, a resident of Dhanwada village.
Dhira Naik of Narayanpet who facilitates work for labourers in other states for commission said a day’s labour in south Telangana villages would get a person barely Rs 150 to Rs 200 per day, but in places such as Mumbai and Pune, the earnings would rise to between Rs 400 and Rs 500 per day. “They are paid in advance and that is why many prefer to travel to far off places.”
In migration season, hordes of working hands board a government bus from Mahbubnagar depot to Mumbai. “Depending on the number of people, we operate more trips,” said Krishna Reddy, the bus driver.
Besides, private vehicles go around villages to carry labourers to different places. Debts also force many to migrate in the hope that they will save enough to pay off moneylenders.
Amid the hardship, the old generation has pinned its hope on the young and education. “Most migrant workers leave their children behind in villages with relatives and ensure they get educated,” said Balakrishna Reddy, principal of a private school in Narayanpet town. “We can hope that this migration of labour will come to an end, at least in the next generation.”