Maharashtra: Migrant labourers who stayed back at places of work left in the lurch

Vivek Deshpande
Migrant labourers, coronavirus outbreak, india lock down, food subsidy, Maharashtra news, Indian express news

The Indian Express spoke to several such groups from Chandrapur over the phone. Most said they did not get the 12-kg rice and Rs 500 per person promised by the Andhra government and 20-kg rice promised by Telangana. (Representational Image)

Migrant labourers, who started walking back to their home states, have caught everyone’s attention but those, who preferred to stay back at their places of work, have been left high and dry. Several groups of such labourers from districts like Chandrapur and Gadchiroli, working on chilli fields of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, have been left to fend for themselves with the foodgrains and money promised by the government yet to reach them. Scores have been living in fields or at their landlords’ courtyards.

The Indian Express spoke to several such groups from Chandrapur over the phone. Most said they did not get the 12-kg rice and Rs 500 per person promised by the Andhra government and 20-kg rice promised by Telangana. Andhra, meanwhile, has also decided to extend midday meal scheme to migrant labourers.

Deekshant Khobragade from Sigarzari village in Chandrapur’s Sindewahi tahsil said: “We are a group of 21 people, including nine women, from Sigarzari in Sindewahi and Chikhalgaon in Nagbhid tahsil. We have been working at a chilli field in Tunikipadu village in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh for about three months now. We were planning to return home on March 20 but then Janata curfew and lockdown was imposed.”

“We have been living in a house provided by the landlord. But not all are so lucky. Hundreds of other labourers from Chandrapur and Gadchiroli have been living under tents in agricultural fields,” he added.

Asked if the group got any help from the district administration there, Khobragade said, “Nothing as yet. Nobody from the government has come to meet us. We have been purchasing rice and vegetables from the village.”

The labourers pluck chilli to fetch about Rs 150 to Rs 250 a day — at Rs 10 to Rs 12 per kg — depending on the weight of the chilli they pluck. Most are currently jobless due to the 21-day lockdown.

Jitendra Mohurle and 21 others, including 16 women from Saynara village in Chandrapur’s Saoli tahsil, have been working on the fields of Venkat Rao at Utkaru village in Madira tahsil of Krishna. “We are staying in the courtyard of Rao’s house for about three months. He lets us sleep in his drawing room at night but we cook and eat in the courtyard. The sarpanch and police patil of the village have noted our names but we haven’t got any foodgrains or money to survive. Our landlord has been providing us rice without charging anything.”

When contacted, Chandrapur Collector Kunal Khemnar said, “I have been coordinating with my counterparts in all districts of AP and Telangana, where labourers from Chandrapur are working, to ensure they get 20 kg rice and Rs 500 per person. We have ensured it for many of them. Still there could be some who are yet to get them. I will ensure that they get the same too.”