Bargarh: Thousands of migrant workers, after losing their jobs due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown, returned to their native places in Bargarh district with the expectation of finding alternative livelihood. Despite reluctance, the migrant workers were bound to come home, that too by facing much hardship.
The central and the state governments had announced assistance for the returnees and promised creation of job opportunities for them.
However, things did not turn out to be favourable for the migrant returnees. The migrants reportedly failed to get livelihood opportunities in their home district.
With the national economy battered due to subsequent lockdowns, the government has started easing restrictions to allow economic activities. Migrant workers from various parts of Bargarh district, seemingly upset over the lack of job opportunities, have started heading back to their workplaces in other states.
Scores of people in Padampur sub-division usually migrate to Maharashtra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat in search of greener pastures. Most of them work in brick kilns, cotton mills, and some even in hotels and as security guards.
During the lockdown, there was a stalemate on trafficking of workforce from some pockets to other states.
However, after easing of restrictions, middlemen and labour contractors have become active in Padampur.
According to the district labour department, 14,864 migrant workers had returned to Bargarh from various states during the lockdown period. Of them, 9,054 were working in brick kilns and cotton mills.
Many migrants had returned home without doing registration officially. Unofficial sources claim, the number of migrant returnees is higher than the official figure.
It was learnt that Rs 2,000 each has been provided to 10,549 labourers while in some cases, they have been provided work under government schemes.
Narrating his ordeal, Bijitosh Bariha, a migrant worker, said, “We had migrated to other states in search of work. We return home every four/six months. In the lockdown, we have no work. Whenever we asked for work at the panchayat office, only manual labour of earth digging was available. We are not acquainted with this work.”
Another migrant Nibash Seth said, “We were earning in other states to make both ends meet. We have no work opportunities here. I want to go out, but have no money. The government should provide loan facility to migrants so that we can do some small business.”
Another migrant, Ashok Bariha, pointed out that he has been doing manual labour for several years to feed his family, comprising three daughters. “There is no scope for jobs here. I am exhausted from frequenting to the office for registration as a construction labourer,” he added.
District labour officer Hemanta Kumar Pradhan said, “The labourers working in cotton mills are not being registered as construction workers. Those who have worked in brick kilns are registered after submission of applications. About one lakh construction workers were registered in the district. They are being provided financial assistance.”