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Back to home base, without joy

A large number of youngsters who migrated from UP are back home, as their employers don’t have adequate cash (in new currency) and hence there is no work for them in cities like New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.

lucknow Updated: Dec 16, 2016 20:30 IST
Gaurav Saigal
Labourers who had migrated to other states to earn a living are returning home post demonetisation as they are not getting wages due to cash crunch.
Labourers who had migrated to other states to earn a living are returning home post demonetisation as they are not getting wages due to cash crunch. (HT File Photo)

Satish, 22 came to his native village for Diwali holidays but post demonetisation, he hasn’t been able to go back to Bengaluru – where he migrated to earn his livelihood two years ago.

“The contractor asked me to stay put until cash crunch is over. I don’t know whether he will call again or not,” said the youth from Machariyaghat village in Gorakhpur who works in the Silicon Valley of India.

A large number of youngsters like Satish who migrated from UP are back home, as their employers don’t have adequate cash (in new currency) and hence there is no work for them in cities like New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.

Avinash Kumar, 23, a tailor in New Delhi’s Mongolpuri and the only earning member of a family of four, is back in Paneli village. “Ten days ago my manager stopped my work as he had no cash. My sister’s marriage is scheduled in January and I don’t see it happening as all savings are gone and no one will give loan to a jobless youth,” he lamented. Kumar belongs to OBC and his average monthly income was `15,000.

Paneli village (25 km from Gorakhpur) has a population of about 2,500 and at least 10 other youths had migrated from here to Delhi and Bengaluru for work.

“At least 40,000 villagers from Gorakhpur and Gonda migrated to Maharashtra, Punjab, New Delhi and Karnataka,” said Jitendra Dwivedi, spokesperson, Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group, an NGO training farmers on advanced techniques.

PROBLEMS GALORE

Majority of the migrants left UP at an early age. With very little or no education they got engaged as painters, masons, mill workers and labourers in big cities.

Rohit Kumar, 22, who worked as a painter in Bengaluru for five years could hardly save money for future. “I could send `8,000 a month to my family and all that was used. After demonetisation I am spending time in the village as I have no work,” he said.

The illiterate workers are cheated too. Rambahadur, a thread mill worker in Sonipat is back to Laxmipur village. To buy a return ticket with demonetised currency he had to pay commission. “No one was accepting old `500 notes that my employer gave me. Even buying food was difficult,” he said, adding, “Agents asked for `100 commission for changing every old note of `500. I had no option but to pay commission.”

Villagers are not opposed to the idea of demonetisation. Majority of them said the decision might generate more jobs or reduce cost of essential commodities and items used in agriculture.

REASON FOR MIGRATION

For decades, agriculture had been the main source of income in these villages. For the past few years, rainfall had either been deficient or in excess leading to flood in river Rapti. As these villages fall in the catchment area of the river, farm output had been poor, forcing youth to migrate. The national sample survey data shows that among the out-migration states, Bihar tops the list followed by UP.

UP has a 20/1000 migration rate among short term migrants.

There are 83.16 lakh permanent migrants in the state – even more than Bihar (39.27 lakh), as per 64th national survey sample report 2007-08, unit level data.

NO WORK BACK HOME TOO

Migrant labourers who came back have no work here. Ancestral agriculture land was either sold off or distributed among other men in the family, leaving inconsequential chunk for them.

“My younger son grows vegetables. The income is just enough for my wife and daughter-in-law. If I try a seasonal crop, it will hardly fetch anything,” said Rambahadur who plans to go back to Sonipat and find some work.

Sajjan of Murawanpurwa village in Gonda used `4,000 (in old currency) that he had when he came from Mumbai. Having spent the entire amount now, he is doing petty work. “There is no money with people here so they offer half or full kilogram of wheat as remuneration for a day’s job on their fields,” he said.

Like Sajjan, there are many others doing the same. But agriculture is not their cup of tea for youths who took up jobs in metros.

“For them, agriculture is alien. Wearing sports shoes, jeans and trendy wrist watches they won’t spill mud,” said Jitendra Dwivedi of Gorakhpur Environment Action Group that trains farmers in agro-economics.

The sudden ‘reverse migration’ trend has increased the burden on village economy, said experts. “Migrants are forced to come back and this increases the burden on the already weak village economy,” said Prof AP Tiwari, dean academics, Dr Shakuntala Mishra National Rehabilitation University, Lucknow.

Read more:Is demonetisation a case of dynamism or disruption?