Sonepur: Nuakhai festival in western Odisha was over August 23, but the COVID situation has not improved a bit for the poor who returned home from other states.
Migrant returnees in Sonepur are bracing up to return to their workplaces in other states as they allegedly failed to avail of sufficient work to make a decent earning during lockdowns and shutdowns.
Reports said, after the coronavirus-induced lockdown was imposed across the country, the district saw a huge reverse migration of migrant workers. Considering their plight over livelihood, the government laid stress on creating job opportunities for them through MGNREGS for their sustenance.
However, it was alleged that most of the migrant returnees had to sit idle because they failed to get adequate work to keep their pots boiling.
COVID situation is yet to subside, but many migrants are preparing to go back to their workplaces in different states.
Well before Nuakhai, middlemen and contractors had visited villages and given migrants advance money to meet their daily expenses. Those who have taken advances are preparing to go back.
Even after the festival, many labour contractors camped in villages luring poor people with advances. Want of work has provided the contractors a golden opportunity to trap the idle workforce.
Like Bolangir, thousands of people from Sonepur migrate to different parts of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Gujarat, Mumbai, Huderbad and Telangana. The contractors are trying to lure them to brick kilns while the local administration is reportedly worried over this problem.
Most of these people work in brick kilns of Telangana and Tamil Nadu. Besides, young people from these villages have been migrating to work in malls and hotels in Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad and Bangalore.
Unofficially, over 15,000 migrant labourers had come back to the district during lockdowns, but only 19 had registered their return by the administration. For the last four months, most labourers had allegedly no work even as the administration tried to provide them jobs through MGNREGS. Some said they do not find work according to their skills and expertise. They are being told to work as manual labourer under MGNREGS. Most of them are reluctant to work under MGNREGS.
In western Odisha, the migration season usually begins after Nuakhai. After the festival, labour contractors take them away for six months.
Surprisingly, this problem is noticed in Dunguripalli and Binika blocks, even though the two blocks are irrigated.
The situation of migrant returnees in non-irrigated blocks like Tarabha, Sonepur, Birmaharajpur and Ullunda is worse.
According to some migrants, they have run out of money and their life is miserable. Now they have no way but to receive advance from labour contractors to go back to their workplaces, they observed. On the other hand, preparation for migration has put a question mark on the execution of the government schemes at the grassroots level.
As per guidelines, there is a provision of registration of names of labourers at panchayat offices before migrating to other states. There is no data about this with the administration.