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Posted at: May 30, 2018, 2:05 AM; last updated: May 30, 2018, 10:27 PM (IST)

Farm labour set terms: Pay e-wallet advance

As requirement shoots up in Punjab, demand list includes liquor on the house
Farm labour set terms: Pay e-wallet advance
File photo

Aman Sood

Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 29

Acute shortage of labour and a shift in the paddy transplantation date has meant a windfall for potential migrant workers, who are demanding 25 per cent advance payments through phone-based apps from farmers if they want them to even start from their home states.

With younger members of their own families not prepared to work in the scorching sun, farmers in Punjab are desperate to arrange labour, as the window to complete the transplantation work has been reduced to a month. Earlier, the date to begin the work used to be June 1, and later it was shifted to June 15. This year, it has been pushed further to June 20. The government restricts the period to save the dwindling ground water in the state.

Cashing in on the situation, labourers are not only demanding advance payments, but also want liquor every day, on the house, as some of them are coming from a dry state (Bihar). Groceries are also on the list.

Radhay, a labourer from Bihar who has received advance payment from Jaskaran Singh, a farmer of Raungla village, has assured him of bringing along 21 members of his family for work. Radhay is a regular with this farmer, but could not come last year due to floods in Bihar.

Jasdeep Singh Garcha, a farmer in Doraha, says in addition to Rs 2,350 per acre, he will also be providing CDs of Bhojpuri movies and television sets. “Earlier, we used to provide bhang and ganja too, but fearing police action, we have stopped that,” he says. In case it rains during the transplantation period, the rates could go even higher as some working days will be lost.

Another farmer, Diljot Singh, says his labour contractor in UP had asked him to deposit the advance through mobile payment or in his bank account.

He obliged by transferring 25 per cent of the total sum.

But what if the workers don’t turn up? Diljot Singh says he has known the contractor for more than 20 years. His cousin is working in a plywood unit in Ludhiana. So there is a certain level of trust. “Also, men from UP usually keep their word,” the farmer adds. Agriculture officials say the shortage of labour can be addressed by shifting to transplantation machines that cost Rs 10 lakh, but very few farmers can afford that. Around 25 lakh hectare of paddy is expected to be sown in the state.

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