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Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Parties count their losses as labourers board train to Punjab

The Jan Sewa Express, locally known as Palayan Express which has only sitting facility, was packed to capacity when Hindustan Times visited Saharsa junction on Tuesday. People from as far as Supaul, Nepal and Madhepura throng Saharsa station everyday to board the train.

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 20, 2019 09:15 IST
Vijay Swaroop
Vijay Swaroop
Hindustan Times, Supaul
Lok Sabha Elections 2019:,Jan Sewa Express,Palayan Express
(HT)

Last week, on April 13 night, when 200 people of Madhuban village of Udakishunganj sub-division left the village to catch Saharsa-Amritsar Jan Sewa Express, a daily train to Amritsar from Saharsa, it set the alarm bells ringing among political parties in Kosi region.

Among the 200 were the two sons of Champa Devi, Amod and Pramod Rishidev of Rishidev Tola. “There is no job here. We are left with no choice but to send our male members elsewhere to earn for our survival,” says Champa, a widow. “Most of the males of this area and this village in particular go out for 5-6 months outside Bihar,” says Champa’s neighbour, Lukho Devi.

The Jan Sewa Express, locally known as Palayan Express which has only sitting facility, was packed to capacity when Hindustan Times visited Saharsa junction on Tuesday. “People from as far as Supaul, Nepal and Madhepura throng Saharsa station everyday to board the train,” said Amit Anand of Mahishi.

The parties are aware of the pitfalls of migration. “It will affect elections and voting. After all, they are our voters,” says Bhola Prasad Yadav, a senior RJD leader from Madhepura. “It will affect both the alliances and even the voting percentage. But then, it is a seasonal migration,” says Swadesh, Madhepura district BJP president.

The scenario is no better in neighbouring Supaul district. Several villages like Lakhmania, Goth Kokhnaha, Mana Tola, to name a few, are left with virtually no male members. “This is one reason why the female turnout is always higher, be it Lok Sabha or assembly elections,” says Mithilesh Kumar of Supaul.

Supaul recorded 63.96% turnout during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. While male turnout was 58.78%, the female recorded 68.76% turnout.

“The flood affected Kosi region has been known for labour outflow. This region mainly includes the districts of Saharsa, Madhepura, Supaul, Darbhanga, Sitamarhi, Araria, Kishanganj, Forbesganj, Purnia and Katihar and this election comes at a time when harvesting has started in Punjab and Haryana,” said Anand mandal of Muroh. “The other reason is wages in other states. Labourers get more wages than here,” says Mithilesh.

According to a study conducted by Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA) in 2010, work remains the main reason for migration out of Bihar. The study had found out that there were an estimated 4.4 to 5 million labour migrants from Bihar working in the other parts of the country. And this number is increasing with every passing year.

The study, based on surveys conducted in districts of Madhepura, Supaul, Gaya, Gopalganj, Madhubani, Nalanda, Purnia, Araria and Rohtas noted that 58 per cent households in these districts report at least one migrant worker. “Migration has assumed greater significance due to the ‘(de)-agrarianising and highly mobile’ nature of rural Bihar, where lack of employment opportunities combined with a rising demand for labour in other parts of the country,” said the study.

First Published: Apr 20, 2019 09:15 IST

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