When we visited Bendakal village in Osmanabad district for our PRA training by TISS Tuljapur we were visiting various stakeholders of the village. During our visit to Asha karyakarta’s house, I saw Suman maushi with a toe ring of a fish design. I was so intrigued by the design of the fish. It was the first thing I noticed in her. I wanted a closer look at it so I went to her and started talking. After the initial talk, I got to know that she was not from Bendkal. She was visiting her daughter who is Asha karyakarta in Bendkal village and she lives in Wai in the Satara district. I was a bit confused about how come she married her daughter this far from Satara to Osmanabad.
Then she told me that her family and 4,5 other families moved to Satara as workers for the construction of the Dhom dam in Satara. After the construction of the dam, they settled in Wai as agricultural labourers. She has two daughters and one son whom she got married to in Osmanabad all of them are settled in their lives. They visit their village often as all of their relatives live here.
When I asked her why did you move to wai she said there were severe and repeated droughts in Osmanabad at that time which was around the mid-70s. They had no work and it was difficult to survive. They had no option but to leave their home for work. They worked all their lives in Wai till date she and her husband work in the fields. When I asked why don’t return to her village now that all her children are settled she told me that she and her husband don’t want to be dependent on anybody and what work will they do here. There at least they get 400 to 500 rs per day. She wants to return to their village sometime when they will earn enough to live here.
When you visit villages in Marathwada and Vidarbha you will see many households whose people have migrated to another city or village. The main reasons behind internal migration are unemployment, low wages, inadequate education and health opportunities and poverty. There are two types of migrants, some who are going to cities for better education, better life which is called aspirational migration and there are some who are compelled to leave their homes to survive. The majority of them get unskilled work as dihadi majdur on construction sites, small factories etc. Most of them come from lower castes as land is mainly owned by upper castes in our society. These are the people who are at the bottom line socially as well as economically.
Life is not easy for either of them. You become guests for your village and outsiders for other villages or towns and it takes a lot of effort to gel in the community which is already established. Anything bad happens the blame is always on the migrated labourers. Then comes the discrimination of caste and religion while renting a house. They are more vulnerable to exploitation as many of them are poor and illiterate. But the availability of opportunities to improve their socio-economic status makes it the best option in front of them.
There is a trend of migration in Maharashtra from the eastern to the western part as western Maharashtra is more developed and has irrigation facilities which lead to sugarcane and cash crops cultivation. The region also has a large number of sugarcane factories. A large number of sugarcane cutters migration happens from the Beed district to Pune, Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur, Nashik, and Solapur districts in the sugarcane cutting season which usually starts in October and ends around March. Though it is seasonal migration there is a huge issue of exploitation of labourers by contractors. The women’s sugarcane cutters are forced to undergo hysterectomies to avoid dwindling productivity iduring their periods. There are other issues of these labourers such as lack of clean drinking water, and the education of their children is also addressed due to the seasonal migration. Health issues of men and women are often ignored as costs a large amount to be absent.
To work on the unemployment issue of the region, the Maharashtra government introduced an employment guarantee scheme in 1972 under the guidance of V.S. Page mainly to alleviate the famine distress in the region. The scheme was the first of its kind and engaged unskilled labourers in labour-intensive public works. The scheme is now evolved as MGNREGA. But it could not resist the migration of labourers. Over the last decade, Marathwada has witnessed a large-scale migration. The women and children are most affected due to the lack of inclusion in the new community for festivals and other cultural activities because of cultural differences.
What can we do to reduce the rate of migration? The main reason behind the migration is the lack of opportunities in the rural region. A balanced regional growth will prevent a large amount of migration from happening from rural to urban in search of work. The promotion of agro-based and small-scale industries will create a large no of employment opportunities for the local population. There should be greater emphasis given to vocational training in secondary and higher education so that the youth in rural areas can find employment opportunities on their own. There should be improved educational and health facilities in rural regions. The promotion of agricultural tourism will also help in creating jobs. The connectivity and infrastructural development will also help attract compies to invest in rural regions.
These remedies won’t stop migration it is a part and parcel of the development process and not all migration is bad. Society can never be static in its nature. But the transition can be smoother and for that, effort from all the stakeholders are equally important so that migration should be a choice and not a compulsion!