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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reluctant migrants - A Status Report on Migrant labour of Kosal

Written by:-
Courtsey:- Frontline

Balangir district in Orissa, facing drought conditions since 1965, sees an annual mass migration of farmers to other States in search of work.

SURESH GOHIR of Bhotapada village in the backward Bolangir district of Orissa consumed pesticide two years ago after his paddy crop failed. He survived the suicide attempt but found life doubly difficult as debt had mounted. Suresh was forced to migrate to neighbouring Andhra Pradesh in search of work.

“This life is worse than death,” he says. “But there is a debt to repay, and so I have to find work.”

This is not an isolated case in Bhotapada. According to local people, about 60 of its 300 families have left the village to find work at the brick kilns of Andhra Pradesh. Although the neighbouring State is the first choice, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh are also destinations for these small farmers and farm hands in distress.

A combination of erratic monsoons and unstable livelihoods has made farmers of the region adopt migration as a survival strategy. However, this phenomenon is not new to drought-prone Bolangir district; it has only assumed serious proportions. Informed sources in the region trace the history of the mass movement of farmers to the prolonged drought of 1965. It crystallised into a permanent feature by 1985.

Distress migration has fuelled a parallel economy in the region with a market where labour is traded as a commodity through a strong network of labour agents known as sardars. Its cruel economics begins operation every year with Nuakhai, an agricultural festival celebrated in western Orissa which coincides with the rice harvest in August-September. At that time farmers are financially vulnerable and seek money to celebrate the festival.

This social compulsion is exploited by labour agents who offer advance payments in return for a long and exploitative stint of labour at the brick kilns. The migration occurs in groups of four or five people, called patharia. More often than not, members of one family form a patharia. Often, adolescents who cannot form a group on their own join one of the patharias.

Each group is paid between Rs.20,000 and 25,000 as an advance by the sardars. The group has to work for a period of over six months at the kilns. The labour agent gets a 10 per cent cut from this advance. The advance payment effectively converts the workers into bonded labourers as they cannot return to their villages unless they have worked enough against the payment they have received.

At the work site, the labourers receive about Rs.300-500 a week towards food, which can be denied if they fail to meet their targets. “A patharia is expected to make up to two lakh bricks [starting from October-November and ending in May-June]. The weekly target for each of us is over 10,000 bricks,” says Brunda Behra of Larki village, lighting a beedi. “If we fail, we are denied our weekly food allowance, reprimanded, humiliated or even tortured physically,” he says.

There appears to be a huge mismatch between the figures provided by official and unofficial sources. Activists and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working with migrant labourers put the number of people migrating every season at around two lakhs. However, the official figures are much lower. According to information provided by the labour office in Bolangir, the number of registered migrant labourers stood at 10,965 for 2006; 20,701 for 2007; 10,503 for 2008; and 4,965 for 2009. The sharp decline in the 2009 figures was attributed to the global recession. “Real estate activities went down because of the meltdown and so, in 2009, the demand for bricks was lower,” said P.K. Bhoi, the District Labour Officer (DLO).

This could also be the reason for the delayed migration of labourers last year. While the migration usually occurs around October, this time it peaked around January.

According to the DLO, there are 70 licensed labour agents who can be tracked by the office. However, he said, the real problem was “illegal migration”, which accounted for most of the inter-State labour movement. This was fuelled by the large number of illegal brick kilns operating around Hyderabad, he said.

“Most of the labourers go with unregistered sardars or with their relatives who are already working in Hyderabad,” said Bhoi. A shortage of staff has affected the labour office's efforts to keep a tab on the number of migrants. The labour office has been unable to post enough personnel at major exit points such as Turikela, Bongamonda, Kantabanji and Titilagarh.

“Our approach at the moment is curative, while the measures that are actually needed are preventive. Implementation of the NREGS [National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme] would be the correct step in the prevention [of the agrarian crisis],” the DLO said. “After journalist P. Sainath's [Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu] visits, the district administration has become more sensitive and proactive [to the issues that affect the small farmers in distress] than before,” he added.

The worst sufferers of this seasonal “debt migration” are women and children. Education of the children is a casualty in the migration process. Moreover, the children are forced into labour and are vulnerable to violation of their rights. Apart from economic exploitation, the migrant women face sexual exploitation.

“Women are often abused by contractors and even brick kiln owners,” says Venkateshwar, an activist working with migrant labourers in Hyderabad. “The problem is that the contractor divides family members and sends them away to work in different locations, which makes women vulnerable to harassment.” Informed sources in Hyderabad also listed the near absence of medical care and clean drinking water among other problems the migrant population faced.

Failure of the NREGS

“We used to work from 4 a.m. until 10 a.m., take rest up to 2 in the afternoon and then work again until 9 p.m.,” says Basu Bhoi of Bahbal village, who has been going to Hyderabad for the past three years. However, he stayed back in his village this year as he found work under the NREGS.

Although the NREGS has managed to curb distress migration, it has failed to emerge as a viable source of livelihood. “Luckily this time, there was some work under the scheme, but even that didn't stop most of the people as wages are almost always delayed,” says Dasrathi Bhoi.

Delayed payment of wages is proving to be the weakest link in the NREGS apparatus and also the prime reason why the scheme has not been able to curb migration to the expected extent. Delays of four to six months were reported by several workers who had found employment under the scheme.

In the case of those who were paid wages the same day, their job cards were blank. This indicated the involvement of contractors who pay lower wages and leave the cards blank.

Further, the presence of contractors in the NREGS has meant that labourers have to work under conditions laid down by them. This has resulted in a strange trend of inter-panchayat migration of NREGS workers whereby a contractor recruits labourers from a village to work in a neighbouring panchayat. This micro-level trend also explains the preference for migrant workers to local workers.

Preference for migrant labour

“Migrant workers are easy to manage. They are off their support systems and as such their bargaining power is low in comparison to the local people,” says B.P. Sharma, an advocate from Kantabanji in Bolangir district, who has been working with migrant labourers for over two decades.

“Once they are away from their local connections, they have to work unconditionally. Further, migrants also ensure completion of work since they cannot leave midway. This explains the general preference for migrant labour,” says Sharma.

While labour agents and employers promise medical benefits at the time of migration, they are often not given. In Behran Silet village of Turikela block, five families recently returned from Hyderabad before the end of the season owing to health problems.

“All of us, my husband, mother-in-law and two children, had malaria. Our employer did not provide us any medical help and since we could not work, he denied us food, too. We had no option but to return,” says Mithila, 35. Jugesar Sona of the same village, who received Rs.15,000 as an advance for his patharia consisting of himself, his wife, his mother and his two children, returned with his family under similar circumstances.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


The odds are now stacked against Vedanta's bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri hills in Kalahandi with UPA government building a watertight legal case against the aluminium giant in the lead up to the decision it is to take next week on the fate of the $1.7 billion project in Orissa.

The step by step build-up to pulling the plug on the controversial bauxite mining venture will reach its penultimate phase on Friday when the Forest Advisory Committee under the environment ministry is to take a call on the N C Saxena report recommending a ban on Vedanta's operations.

The FAC is unlikely to go against the grain of Saxena committee's report which is seen as well-argued. Importantly, one of the members of the FAC, Amita Baviskar, also happens to be on the Saxena panel.

The FAC's recommendation would then allow the environment ministry (read: Jairam Ramesh) to take a final call on aluminium czar Anil Aggarwal's ambitious project in Orissa. Indications are that Ramesh, but for a political intervention, will reject the proposal for a clearance to state-owned Orissa Mining Corporation to dig out bauxite for the Vedanta aluminium refinery project. In fact, the findings are such that they may even lead the minister to block construction of the refinery.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

PM non-committal on three MPs’ demand for KBK special plan

Courtesy - The Pioneer

They waited for three days to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who finally gave then audience for five minutes on Friday. Members of Lok Sabha from the KBK region present the demands of the people of the most backward areas of the country to the Prime Minister.

Congress MPs Pradip Majhi and Bhakta Charan Das and BJD MP Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo met the Prime Minister in his office. All of them demanded an early approval of the Special Action Plan (SAP) for 2009-17 for the KBK region as submitted by the Government of Odisha. The State Government has asked for the Centre's approval of Rs 4,550 crore for the SAP to be spent over eight years. The SAP was submitted in early 2009.

The KBK region having eight districts has been listed at the bottom of the 69 most backward districts of the country by the recent study of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. So, MPs cutting across party lines came forward to press for an early approval of the SAP.

Singh Deo, MP of Balangir, in a detailed memorandum appreciated the efforts of both the State and Central Governments for paying special attention to KBK since 1995-96. As a result of the initiatives like Long Term Action Plan (LTAP) and other developmental activities, infrastructure, livelihood and other human development indicators have considerably improved. However, he pressed for approval of the SAP, which would help out the area in a big way.

Majhi, MP of Nabarangpur, also sought special irrigation facilities for the KBK region and approval of the SAP. Das, MP from Kalahandi, demanded separate universities for Kalahandi as the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in the area is very low. He also presented a memorandum to the Prime Minister. Das listed out railway lines to be set up between Lanjigarh-Malkangiri and Khurda Road-Balangir, which need to be completed as soon as possible.

The MPs presented a long list of demands; but sources said the Prime Minister was noncommittal over any special dispensation for KBK. Singh heard the MPs patiently and said that money flow to KBK is on. Funding to the region is flowing from the existing KBK funds and BRGF while more recently the special programme for the Maoist-affected areas is being undertaken, he said.

Friday, August 6, 2010

MP demands setting up of IIM at Sambalpur

PNS | Bhubaneswar

Sambalpur MP Amarnath Pradhan has demanded the setting up of an Indian Institute of Management (IIM) at Sambalpur.

He said that Sambalpur is the nerve centre of western Odisha and it has the entire infrastructure to facilitate an IIM. Pradhan said that the Union Government should create more opportunities for students in the State by opening at least one IIM in Odisha.

Recently, the standing committee on HRD in its report had asked the Centre to increase the number of seats in the existing IIMs. Pradhan said that as the State is witnessing rapid industrialisation, the necessity for setting up an IIM is increasingly felt. He said majority of the mega projects are coming up in western Odisha and to meet the requirements of these industries, an IIM is very much needed, said the MP.

It may be pointed out that Odisha has all along demanded an IIM and the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) has never been kind to the State since the days of Arjun Singh. Though Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal is not having such negative feeling, he has not been generous to the State, said a senior official.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Airport Authority Of India Agrees to Develop Jharsuguda Airport into a Full Fledge one


Report by Pragyan Das, Bhubaneswar: The Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Monday informed the House that the Airports Authority of India has already agreed to develop Jharsuguda Airport to a full fledged one and for which the latter has also asked 815 acres of land free of cost.

Replying to a starred question of legislature Sanjib Kumar Pradhan, the Chief Minister said two airports in the State one at Bhubaneswar and another at Jharasuguda are under the control of management of the Airports authority of India.

The Chief Minister informed that the Authority considering the proposal of the State Government of developing Jharasuguda Airport to a full fledged Airport, has asked for additional land of 815 acres free of cost. However, a maximum of 734 acres of land is available near the Airport which includes 418 of Private land. So, the Authority has been requested to scale down their requirement of land through a reasonable estimate. They have also been asked to intimate a firm commitment to complete the expansion project of the Airport within a period of two years from the date of receipt of the additional land and a reply to this effect is awaited, he said.

Regarding Biju Patnaik Airport , the Chief Minister said the State Government is considering a proposal of the Authority for providing additional land measuring about 23 acres for construction of parallel taxi track and development of 300 meters basic strip for Biju Patnaik Airport here.

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"Aamar Sanskruti Aamar Gaurav"

Welcome to the land of culture "Koshal" . Koshal is the land of great warriors. The land of Maharaja's.The land of Maa Samalei, World famous sambalpuri saree , great teracotta works, land of tantrik Vidya, world famous Sambalpuri music and dance.

Koshal consists of ten beautiful districts..
and Deogarh.

The motto of this community is to bring all the young warriors of koshal to a common platform from where they can initiate the process to preserve the great Koshali culture and swear to free our motherland koshal from atrocities..

So friends lets join hand and do something extraordinary to create a separate identity of us across the globe and create a separate koshal state,full of prosperity and impartiality.

We Consider Kosali language as the mother of Oriya language, the origin of kosali language was found by the historians from Subarnapur in Stambheswari inscription of 12th century A.D. The Kosali language is spoken by about 2 crores of people in the entire KBK belt and Western Orissa and part of A.P., M.P., Chhatisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. It is a matter of regret that the Government of Orissa has not taken any interest to improve the standard of Kosali (Sambalpuri) language.


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