Monsoon brings natives back to Chhattisgarh soil

June 21st, 2008 - 12:16 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sujeet Kumar
Raipur, June 21 (IANS) Every year the monsoon sows new life in the soil of Chhattisgarh. And it does one other magical thing. With the rains, the migrant sons and daughters of thousands of poverty-stricken families come back to work in the state’s paddy fields. Monsoon is one time when there is plenty of work in their native land. The rest of the year they slog in big cities and often end up being exploited.

“For the past three years I have been leaving my village in September-October with my husband and 14-year-old son to work at a brick kiln at Gorakhpur (in Uttar Pradesh). We get paid on a weekly basis at around Rs.200 per week per person,” said Dehuri Bai, 40, who was on her way to her village in Janjgir district via Raipur.

“But the monsoon brings us joy as we return home at this time for paddy cultivation. Most importantly, I get to look after my aged in-laws. But this wonderful time lasts hardly four months, as we leave again in search of work.”

Political parties and social organisations say every year at least 500,000 people are sent out of Chhattisgarh by agents to other states for meagre daily wages - as labourers at brick kilns or as domestic helps.

The agents run a vast human trafficking network in the state’s tribal and Scheduled Caste-dominated villages.

The brokers and agents cash in on the extreme poverty of thousands of families in the state, even taking away minor girls to big cities after paying a few hundred rupees to their parents with the promise of giving them jobs in the metros. But the girls often end up being sexually exploited.

Prem Narayan Verma of the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, a regional political outfit that fights for workers and the poor, says: “Migrants leave the state to avoid starvation deaths but then end up facing trauma.”

“The brokers earn handsome amounts while many a migrant girl gets pushed into sex work. Only a few lucky ones return after facing sexual trauma.”

In several cases, such girls have been supplied to rich people in the Gulf countries.

But the monsoon brings happy tidings - for more reasons than one!

With the rains hitting the state last week, hundreds of migrants have started arriving back in their villages to work in the paddy fields. They will go away again some time in September.

Though migration is a problem across the state, the worst hit districts are Surguja, Jashpur, Raigarh, Korba, Bilaspur, Koriya and Mahasamund.

Congress leader and former chief minister Ajit Jogi who represents Mahasamund in the Lok Sabha says: “Migration is a blot for Chhattisgarh because of mono-crop cultivation.

“Earlier, about two million or more migrants used to stay away from their homes throughout the year except during monsoon.”

“Migration from Chhattisgarh has come down because of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) but not stopped fully. About 50,000 women from Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are still employed as domestic helps in Delhi alone.”

In April, a 23-year-old youth of Mahasamund, Makhanlal Nishad, lodged a complaint with the Raipur police that his newly wed wife, Ranjeeta, was sold in a Haryana village by traffickers who had taken them there for work at a brick kiln. The trafficker forced him to return to Chhattisgarh without his wife.

“From areas where illiteracy is high, poor girls are sent to urban pockets where they are sexually exploited. Such human trafficking and exploitation of poor families need to be stopped,” Jogi said.

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