Farmers and the local administration in Barnala are pulling all stops to take care of the health of migrants who have returned to work in the fields for paddy transplantation.
While police distributed hand sanitisers, soaps and counselled the workers on proper hygiene on Wednesday, farmers said that they are taking extra care of the migrants’ diet.
Birju Kumar, who is working in Kaire village of Barnala district for for the past two days, said,”I have been coming to this village for more than 10 years, but this time Sardarji is very cautious about my health. Every day he asks me twice as whether I need anything or not.” Jai Ram, who also came along with Birju from Purnia district of Bihar, said,”On June 10, when paddy transplantation started, we were given a lecture by police officer and he also distributed soap, masks and sanitisers to us.”
DSP Barnala Jagseer Singh had met migrants before they started paddy transplantation Wednesday. So far, 331 migrant workers have come in different villages of Barnala out of which 227 are from Bihar and 114 from UP.
Jagraj Singh Sidhu, the farmer who had gone along with one bus to bring workers from Bihar, said, “We will be giving them chicken and fish once a week. Apart from this, they have been given ration like dal chawal, onions, potatoes, spices etc. One person along with them will just do cooking, while others work in fields. Hence, they will eat as per their own taste. Milk, lassi will also be given to them as per their requirement. We do take care of their health, that’s why they come to us again and again. However, this time I am over-cautious and so is everyone else.”
Migrant workers have also come back to Muktsar, Ludhiana and Sangrur. “They went in lakhs, but are coming in few hundreds, trains have also not started from many destinations of Bihar and UP due to which mobility is slow and everyone cannot afford hiring a bus,” said Sukhwinder Singh, another Pakho Kalan village’s farmer.
Labour rates in Muktsar villages are not more than Rs 3200 an acre, while in Barnala, Sangrur they have been fixed at Rs 4200 an acre, in Jalalabad area, labour charges for paddy transplantation, however, are Rs 3000 per acre.
“A hike was being demanded, but many villages have worked out at lesser prices,” said Ajit Singh, a Jalalabad based farmer.
Both farmers and industrialists agreed that migrants return was a trickle compared to the exodus.
Rahul Tiwari , Nodal officer, State Covid Control Room (SCCR) said,”In this month, industry has placed demand of 34,000 workers which they need to run their units and we have already provided 13,000 in those vacancies. Rest is being worked out.”
While many are being brought back by trains, Rahul Ahuja, president of CII Punjab Branch, said,”It seems to be unsafe preposition to call workers back via trains as if the train halts at Delhi and they start coming by road, and many are being ‘hijacked’ by Haryana cops. Three of our industrialists claim that they booked train tickets of about 60 workers who started coming via road from Delhi, but were stopped by Haryana cops, after which they preferred to work in Haryana’s paddy fields and even in their units as they were daily wagers. This is going to pose a problem for us, if such things continue.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines