Tribune News Service
Patiala, May 28
From online payments in their accounts back home to permanent residences, Punjab farmers are doing all to lure farmhand. Finding it hard to get labour for paddy, they are offering liquor, ration and mobile top-up to migrant workers, who have opted to stay back amid the lockdown.
The migrants are demanding 25 per cent advance payment through phone-based apps as security. Also, the labour rates have more than doubled from Rs 3,200 per acre (last season) to Rs 7,000 per acre.
The Punjab Government having sent back 3.89 lakh migrants so far, the farmers are desperately searching for farm labour, especially since the window to finish paddy transplantation has been reduced to a month.
Jai Parkash, a Bihar native, says he is willing to work for anyone willing to pay him Rs 5,500 per acre. “There are only a few of us still in Punjab,” he points out.
Farmer Jasdeep Singh Garcha of Doraha says he will be providing homemade liquor, CDs of Bhojpuri movies and television sets to his workers. “Earlier, we would provide bhang too. But fearing police action, we have stopped that now,” he says. Farmers say if it rains during transplantation, the rates could go even higher. The price of short-duration paddy seed, used for direct seeding, has zoomed to Rs 150 per kg compared to Rs 55 last year, they say.
“Paddy was grown across 29.30 lakh hectares in Punjab last year. This year, the state has decided to grow other crops on 2.50 lakh hectares. Also, PAU, Ludhiana, has recommended direct seeding. The government proposes to bring 5 lakh hectares under this system that does not require intensive labour,” Kahan Singh Pannu, Secretary, Agriculture, said.
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