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UP Elections: Migration From Bundelkhand Continues as Govt’s Jobs Promise Remains Unrealised

As extreme weather conditions have made agriculture unviable in the region, mass out-migration of youths in search of jobs has emerged as a major issue.
manikpur

Manikpur Railway Station.

Manikpur, Chitrakoot: On a sunny Saturday afternoon Rajeev Patel, 23, is busy trying to get a railway reservation for Chandigarh from Chitrakoot district in Uttar Pradesh.

Patel, a resident of Patha region of Banda-Chitrakoot, has worked as a cook in Chandigarh and other cities of Punjab and Haryana since the last seven years. He has not gone through any formal training and left his village in search of employment.

Patel says that he had to leave his village only to earn money because there was no other option to earn money in his locality. Along with Patel, hundreds of men have moved to other cities in search of jobs.

There are no industries here so we have to move out because we need money to run our households. Depending on agriculture in Bundelkhand is foolishness because there is water scarcity, inclement weather conditions, and then you have stray cattle eating your produce,” says Patel, adding, “We face difficulty in getting jobs; we do not get the right money we deserve for the hard work we put in and we get exploited. These are the reasons why youths in large numbers go out of the villages to big industrial towns.”

Joblessness in the Bundelkhand region is one of the major reasons for the large-scale migration of youths. There are hundreds of villages in the region where only elderly members and women live because the youth and male members migrate in order to earn livelihood for their families.

Patel says even if someone finds a daily wage job in the region, the wages are very less in comparison with what they earn in big cities. Moreover, there is no guarantee of getting that job for even five days a week.

Migrant Labours at Reservation Counter.

Migrant Labours at Reservation Counter.

In cities, we earn about Rs 400 per day for an eight hour job and one time meal, two time’s refreshment, but here in Bundelkhand, we get paid hardly Rs 200 or Rs 250 per day. We have an assurance in the cities that we will get to work for at least five to six days a week while there is no such security here. We do not know whether we will get the job the next day,” Patel says.

Gyan Chandra, a labour contractor, is busy getting the logistics sorted for the young laborers who want to move out of the Bundelkhand area to find a job in other cities in order to run their houses.

Chandra, a resident of Manikpur in Chitrakoot district of the parched Bundelkhand region in Uttar Pradesh, has been a labour contractor for more than 15 years. He has been sending labourers to different parts of the country from Bundelkhand and charges some commission from them.

Gyan Chandra says that there is a dearth of employment opportunities in Bundelkhand which is why people migrate to other regions of India in search of jobs.

Dr Gyan chandra, Labour Contractor.

Dr Gyan chandra, Labour Contractor.

People in Bundelkhand brag about their presence across India and that is true, but it is not a matter of pride for us. People go to other cities to find jobs. If they get a job here they will not be going to other places. The politicians have been promising job creation in the region for a long time but nothing has been done so far. Development projects are announced by every government on getting elected and the fact remains that a large chunk of young colts keep migrating to other parts of India every day,” Chandra said.

According to a senior official posted at the Manikpur junction in Chitrakoot, more than 1800 people move out to different parts of India via different trains. Now, Manikpur is only one of the many railway junctions in the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh. Moreover, a lot of people also migrate by road.

In Uttar Pradesh, in 2019-20, around 1.3 crore MGNREGA employment days were created and 1.33 lakh families got 100 days of employment in the period. In 2018-19, as many as 71,992 households, and in 2016-17, 41,362 households got employment. This means, in the past four years, 100 days of employment and the number of employment days have almost tripled, but even then, the problem of joblessness continued to persist in the region.

Raja Bhaiya, a social activist based in Banda, says that the problem of migration in the region is so big that entire villages become empty and everyone moves out.

In the deep remote pockets of the region, you will find hundreds of villages either with locked houses or with only elderly members staying there. A lot of reverse migration also happened in the region after the pandemic hit us and at that time, many other problems along with joblessness came to the fore,” he says. Raja Bhaiya further explains the emerging issues saying, “People started taking loans from local money lenders, a few of them tried to commit suicide and a lot of problems came to light.”

Meera Bharti, an advocate and social activist based in Chitrakoot, says that migration is a major issue in the area and when a large number of people move out, especially men, then the women who are left behind face a different set of problems.

The government sees us only as a vote bank and they do not think of generating employment. Crime against women by the dominant people increases and due to the absence of their family’s men, these women do not report the crime. The government should focus on generating employment here in the region by encouraging people to set up micro-level industries. If this happens then it will act as a sandbag to stop migration from the region. Being depended on agriculture, the government has yielded nothing so far. So, I think the setting up of micro-level industries will help us all,” she says.

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