Indore: Dilip Bamania, a tribal labourer, is among thousands of migrant workers hailing from Western Madhya Pradesh who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus-enforced lockdown and are not able to find a way ahead to sustain themselves.
Bamania, 32, was a construction labourer in Gujarat's Valsad district, but after the lockdown came into force, the work stopped there and he returned to his native Tikdibodia village in the tribal-dominated Jhabua district, located about 160 km from Indore.
With no source of income and monsoon just about to set in, he is now busy repairing the roof of his hut.
"I have no job now. I am not able to understand how I will be able to sustain my family," he told PTI.
Bamania said his joint family comprises 18 members, but they have only "two bigha" (less than one acre) of land for farming.
"Before the monsoon arrives, I am tilling the land to prepare it for sowing, but I know the income generated from farming will not be able to fulfil the needs of our family and I will have to go back to Gujarat one day to earn the livelihood, he said.
However, Bamania, who has four children, has no answer to when he will be able to go back to Gujarat for work.
"Right now, several businesses in Gujarat are also shut. Hence, we will wait for the right time to think of going there," he said.
Bamania also informed that no government official has so far contacted him to provide work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
Due to lack of employment avenues in Madhya Pradesh's Jhabua, Alirajpur, Dhar, Khargone and Barwani districts, thousands of tribals migrate to neighbouring Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and other states in search of work.
But, because of the COVID-19 crisis, they have been forced to return to their native places and are now pinning hopes on the government for jobs.
Indore divisional commissioner (revenue) Akash Tripathi said, "In the wake of the return of thousands of labourers to five tribal-dominated districts of Indore division, we have initiated schemes of water conservation, basic infrastructure development and others under MGNREGA where a large number of labourers is required."
Since the first phase of lockdown was announced on March 24, more than one lakh job cards were made in these five districts under MGNREGA and from April 1 onwards, 4,48,560 people were provided employment under the scheme, he said.
However, tribal leader and opposition Congress MLA Heeralal Alawa claimed that after returning home, most of the tribal labourers have no work and are also facing shortage of ration.
"If the state government fails to provide employment to labourers at the local level, we will be forced to launch an agitation," said Alawa, who is an MLA from the tribal-dominated Manawar seat of Dhar district.