Punjab farmers, industrialists woo back migrants with advance payments, return tickets

Chandigarh, Jun 5 (PTI) In a case of reverse migration, farmers in Punjab are trying to woo back migrants by offering them advance payments, more labour charges and confirmed train tickets for their return.

Similarly, the industrial sector, which also seeks to scale up production capacities following relaxation in the lockdown, is considering to bear the cost of return of migrant workers.

Both agriculture and industrial sectors bore the brunt of labour shortage after many migrant workers went back to their native places in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.

On one hand, labour charges for paddy transplantation have almost doubled to Rs 6,000 to Rs 7,000 an acre, on the other hand, the industry could not utilise its full production capacities because of labour shortage, non-availability of raw material among other factors.

Punjab Industries Minister Sunder Sham Arora had on Thursday said the state has written to the Union government to arrange trains for bringing back migrant workers in the wake of increasing number of industrial units resuming operations. Farmers said they have been facing an acute shortage of labour at a time when they need workforce for paddy transplantation, set to start from June 10 in the state.

“Presently, there is an acute shortage of labour in the border district of Amritsar,” Sarbjit Singh Laddy, a farmer, rued.

He said they had plans to send buses to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to bring their workers back.

“But now with the resumption of railway services, we have changed our plan. We have now got sleeper class train tickets reserved for our labourers for their return. They will start coming back from June 14,” Laddy added.

Jagseer Singh, a farmer of village Chhiniwal in Barnala district, said he along with other farmers sent three buses to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to bring their workers back.

Upon their arrival, the workers will stay at the fields in the wake of coronavirus, he said.

The growers also stated that they were offering more labour charges to the workers, adding some were even depositing advance payment of Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 in the bank accounts of migrants.

The migrants, however, are urging their employers to guarantee their safe return after the sowing season.

Paddy transplantation is a labour-intensive exercise in which nurseries are transplanted in puddled fields, for which at least two to three workers per acre are required.

United Cycle and Parts Manufacturers Association president D S Chawla on Friday said several industrialists have contacted their workers and offered to bear their cost of return.

“We are telling our workers to come back and that we will foot their cost of return,” he said.

Chawla said they had also urged the state government to bring back the migrant workers from their native places the way they were sent from Punjab.

He also said that there was a need to train local youths, including women, to work in factories in order to prevent any situation of labour shortage in future. “We want to provide training to village youths who fall prey to drugs, so that they can work in our factories,” the official added.