With paddy sowing in full swing, the farmers of numerous villages have been hit hard by shortage of labourers.
According to farmers, large number of labourers who mostly belong to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, were away to their respective hometowns and have not returned till yet.
A visit to some of the villages in the district revealed that though the farmers have kept their fields ready for sowing paddy, they could not get labourers for the same.
Ranjit Singh of Tarkhan Majra said, "My son is a XII student and I have to seek his help for readying the fields for sowing but I am not able to find labourers." He remembered time when migrant labourers come to the state in groups.
They said now migrant labouers preffered to go to farmers with big land holding who give not only meal, but liquor and daily wages as well.
The paddy sowing has already begun at several places on the advice of the government. The farmers were told to plant paddy after June 10.
A farmer Surjit Singh who had come to Sirhind railway station to find labourer said the way the new industry is coming up in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the governments of both the states are wooing them for more incentives, thus causing severe shortage of migrant labourers.
He said migrant labourers were also attracted by MGNREGA. A severe reduction in the arrival of migrant labour from Bihar and UP is likely to increase paddy transplantation costs, he added.
With migrant labour in short supply, women are being engaged in many places to do the job. Amarjit Singh of village Bagh Sikander said besides women, children of local labourers are also being engaged in paddy transplantation as they are on summer vacation. Punjabi
labourers, who have in the past decade or so taken up jobs in urban areas, are also being persuaded by farmers to bail them out.
He said labourers willing to plant paddy are being offered beds with mattresses, home-cooked meals, non-vegetarian food and even liquor.
Farmers were thronging railway stations every day but only few labourers are arriving. A few of them say publication of the ban on early transplantation has also resulted in delay in movement of the labourers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, he said.
The ban on early sowing means the paddy season is no longer staggered. Gurpreet Singh Sabarwal of Sirhind says the government should have planned out separate schedules for different districts.
A senile leader of Bharatiya Kisan Union said the only way out of the crisis is mechanised transplantation. He is of the view that the government can help by supplying paddy transplanters in maximum numbers.