Updated: June 14, 2020 1:14:44 pm
Rimpi Kaur is preparing for a recruitment test for Master Cadre Teachers’ posts , advertised by the Punjab Government. She is a post graduate in Punjabi and had also cleared the teacher eligibility test (TET) in 2017. While she waits to land a teacher’s job, Rimpi decided to do paddy transplantation this season as part of a group of ten persons in village Akbar Khudal in Mansa. The other members are his paternal uncle and his family members. All of them have taken task of transplanting paddy in 50 acres at Rs 3200 per acre which will come out to be 1.6 lakh and Rimpi will get 16,000 as her share if she completes the task.
Her brother, Kuldeep Khudal, said,” I work as a clerk in a private college and I am being called for work, my father is a rickshaw puller while mother doesn’t keep good health. Rimpi is the only one doing this work.”
Busy working in the fields, Rimpi said, “When you have no job and no unemployment allowance, you have work to feed yourself. If degrees can’t give me job, I am finding ways through which I can earn money.”
Just like her, Sandeep Kaur — who was working in a spinning mill in Sangrur’s Bhinder village but has now been told not to come to work due to Covid-19, is engaged in paddy transplantation. Kaur, who is a graduate in humanities stream, is from a family of farm labourers.
Beant Kaur, from the same village lost her job from a Barnala factory. She is a BA B.Ed and has done a computer diploma too. “As I have been told not to come in factory for the time being as less staff is needed, hence I need to work to earn. My father is a farm labourer. So, I am back in the field after many years,” she said.
All of them are working in fields of other farmers at Rs 3200 per acre. In village Akbar Khudal it is a common sight to see village women, young girls studying in colleges, unemployed girls or the ones who have lost jobs working in the fields.
Kuldeep Kaur’s father is a tailor. Her family too faced heat of lockdown when shops were closed and even now, the father is not getting much business. She is a graduate in commerce and has done BEd and even has passed the elementary trained teachers (ETT) course is waiting for a suitable job.
While earlier she worked in some private school on a meagre salary, but as salary was not being paid by the school she opted to work in paddy fields.
Karamjeet Kaur, another girl working as a farm labourer now is a BA B.Ed. She has taken up this work, she says, as she searches for a suitable job.
Jasvir Singh Khudal, teachers’ union leader said,”No doubt working manually is not bad, but qualified persons are working in fields, which shows the level of unemployment in our country. These girls have the courage to work in the same village where they are living but many unemployed postgraduate boys are working in far off villages so as to save themselves from embarrassment. People even address them as ‘Master’ when they work in fields.”
“As many girls working in spinning mills, textile and knitting units have been told to stay at home for the time being, they can be seen in fields doing paddy transplantation. This season migrants and Punjabi workforce can be seen in equal numbers in most villages, while in many villages Punjabi workers are doing 100 per cent work,” said Lachhman Singh Sewewala, president of Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union.
He added,”Many farm labourers living in villages work as a team as their entire family works so as to get the maximum money within the family. There are Class 10, 12 students who also work along with their parents.”
However, while Punjabis work in a team of 10 persons to transplant paddy in an acre, migrant labourers can do it in a team of 3 persons only.
“Migrant labour is more experienced, we don’t deny this fact, but at the same time farmers exploit them by paying less and hence prefer them over Punjabi labour,” said Sewewala.
“Few youngsters are working in their own fields to learn how to do paddy transplantation, but for many it is a compulsion as they have no money at home. We could have transplanted paddy without doing graduation or post graduation,” said Kudeep Khudal, Rimpi Kaur’s brother.
“This is a bitter truth that in fields, students, graduates, post graduates and even non-degree holders, all are busy doing paddy transplantation. It is a fight for survival, to earn some money.” said Randeep Singh Sangatpura, press secretary of Unemployed B.Ed, TET Pass Teachers Association. He said, “Many of our union members are working in fields these days, a few were doing private jobs apart from trying to land a government job, but now majority are actually jobless. There is no unemployment allowance, no jobs. Hence, daily wages are the only answer.”
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