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Migrant exodus: Farmers, local workers at loggerheads

June 17, 2020 05:59 AM

COURTESY HT JUNE 17

Migrant exodus: Farmers, local workers at loggerheads

Labourers sowing paddy in a field near Verka in Amritsar district on Tuesday. Sameer Sehgal/HT
Surjit Singh and Anil Sharma

letterschd@hindustantimes.com

AMRITSAR : The exodus of migrant labourers due to the coronavirus pandemic has led to a change in relationship between farmers and local labourers in villages across Amritsar district.

Agriculture in Punjab largely depends upon migrant workers who come from states such as Bihar, UP and Chhattisgarh. Their return to their home states has enhanced the importance of local labourers, who are mostly from scheduled caste communities and over the years had opted for other professions.

With the paddy sowing season starting earlier this month, farmers are forced to hire services of these local labourers at much higher rates.

It has also led to souring of relationships between farmers and local labourers, as is being witnessed at the border village of Pandoor in Ajnala subdivision.

The village panchayat had passed a resolution fixing ₹3,000 per acre labour charges for sowing paddy, a decision that did not go down well with local labourers, who are demanding up to ₹4000 per acre. In fact, migrant labourers were ready to work for even ₹2,500 per acre.

Due to the labourers’ “hefty demand”, farmers did not engage them, says sarpanch Baljit Singh, adding that in turn the labourers are not even willing to do domestic work for the farmers.

Robin Masih, a local labour union leader, alleges that farmers, who are from Jat community and are in majority in the village, have been threatening the labourers, who were already hit by the lockdown.

Locals say the two groups even clashed on Sunday, during which shots were fired

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