M A I N   N E W S

Farmers fret as UP labourers head home
Freebies in poll-bound state may trigger huge trouble for Punjab
Aman Sood/TNS

Rajpura, February 1
As political parties in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh promise a slew of freebies and incentives to prospective voters, thousands of migrants from the state working in Punjab have packed their bags to return home. The large-scale migration is expected to spell trouble for thousands of Punjab farmers as they approach the wheat-harvesting season.

To begin with, parties were offering around Rs 10,000 for the votes of a family, but as the UP ballot battle heated up, sops came to include government quotas, free laptops and even plots, offers hard to resist.

For Om Parkash, a farm help in Banur, toiling through the three-month season fetches him some Rs 20,000. But with the poll season in full swing back home in UP, he hopes to earn this much in his hometown, Saraiganj. “I will get to stay with my family and work on my small farm,” he says.

Nasrat Khan, a kite string maker in Ludhiana, received a call from his cousin informing him that UP Chief Minister Mayawati had promised to upgrade kutcha houses to pucca and promised government jobs. Then the main Opposition, Samajwadi Party, announced free education and even laptops.

“I have three daughters and a son and earn around Rs 1 lakh after working very hard through the year. Going back home can change my life around,” says Nasrat.

For thousands like Nasrat who barely manage to eke out a living in Punjab, the UP Assembly polls and the lofty promises of the government and political parties are a god-sent opportunity to better their future.

“It makes complete sense to return to UP. We leave our homes and families behind to come and work here. And what do we get? A tough life and hardly any savings. Going back means staying with the family and who knows, one of us may land a government job, as promised,” says the nine-member Tiwari family, seated on a berth in the Saryu Yamuna Express at the Rajpura railway station.

But the migration is worrying landlords. “The wheat harvesting season is almost here and paddy season will follow. With the farm labour going away, the already high labour input costs will only spiral,” says Jujhar Singh from Sangrur. The farm labour that comes from UP specialises in paddy transplantation and is an asset during the season, he tells.

“First migrants from Bihar decided to return after development activities in the state and now the UP poll promises are luring away labour. If these migrations continue, agriculture in Punjab will suffer beyond words,” Jujhar Singh added.





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