Paddy sowing in Punjab: Panchayats pass resolutions fixing labour rates, govt terms move illegal

Hindustan Times, Patiala | By, Patiala
Jun 09, 2020 10:19 PM IST

DIKTAT: Some even threaten non-compliance with social boycott and hefty fines, ask farmhands to work in their own villages on priority; farm unions condemn decision

Panchayats in several districts of Punjab have passed resolutions fixing wages for farmhands for the paddy-sowing season as the demand for local labourers has increased in the wake of the return of migrant workers to their native states due to the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.

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Some have even threatened non-compliance with social boycott and fine ranging between 5,000 and 25,000.

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But the state rural development and panchayats department has termed the move as illegal, saying the village bodies are not entitled to pass orders determining the labour rates.

Though the department does not have a conclusive figure, labour unions say at least 40% of the total 13,262 panchayats in Punjab, particularly in Patiala, Sangrur, Muktsar, Mansa, Moga, Ferozepur and Bathinda districts, have passed such resolutions.

Paddy sowing will start in the state on Wednesday.

2,500-3,200 for

sowing on one acre

As per the resolutions passed by the panchayats, farm labourers will be paid anywhere between 2,500 and 3,200 for sowing paddy on one acre. On the other hand, farmhands are demanding 4,000-4,500 for per acre.

Sukhijit Kaur, sarpanch of Muktsar district’s Bhalayiana village, said, “The resolution has been passed for the first time due to labour shortage. It will help both farmers and labourers as the rates decided suit both the parties.”

Also, they have been asked to work in their villages on priority.

Rajdeep Kaur, sarpanch of Ghanauri Khurd village in Sangrur district’s Dhuri block, said the resolution was passed to avoid confusion while hiring labourers. “The decision to bar labourers from providing their services at other villages was taken to cope with the shortage of labour,” she said.

Moga’s Singhawala panchayat decided to increase the fine to 50,000, besides banning entry of labourers from other areas.

Beant Singh Sidhu, sarpanch of Gurusar village in Bathinda, said, “We have decided to let the farmers and labourers negotiate the final rates.”

‘We have right to seek

wages as per work’

Punjab Khet Majdoor Union general secretary Lachhman Singh Sewewala said, “More and more panchayats are doing this. We have all the right to demand wages as per the requirement of work. How can a panchayat force the labourers to work in their villages only?”

“Last year, migrant labourers were paid 2,700-3,200 for sowing paddy on per acre, and now the panchayats are offering the same rates. Threatening workers with social boycott and hefty fines is unconstitutional,” Sewewala said.

Kashmir Singh, a labour activist, said, “We are not bonded labourers. Moreover, the panchayats have no right to decide anyone’s earnings,” Singh said.

Rural development and panchayats department director DPS Kharbanda said, “These resolutions are illegal and we will cancel them once they are tabled. I have instructed the district-level officials across the state to stop this practice.”


    Navrajdeep Singh is a senior staff correspondent. He covers agriculture, crime, local bodies, health and education in the Patiala district of Punjab.

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