A day after Tembhli etched its ‘identity' on the map of India becoming the country's first ‘Aadhar' village, two trucks of people left for Gujarat to work as farm labourers. At the national launch of the Unique Identification (UID) card, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi hailed Tembhli as the symbol of the development of India. The truth, though, lies in the aftermath of the grand function.
According to activists, most of the people who migrate are like bonded labour, as they have already taken loans from the ‘mukadam' (contractor), which they will pay back through labour. For the nine months that they will work as sugarcane-cutters and other farm labour in Gujarat, they will get Rs. 10,000. Otherwise in their village, the men get Rs. 50 a day, and the women and children get Rs. 30 a day for working in the nearby farms.
The whole of Tembhli is declared as a Below Poverty Line (BPL) village, with 432 BPL families. Two days back, villagers told the reporters that the BPL cards were distributed in the village ten days ahead of Dr. Singh's visit. Before that, they had been coaxing the village administration to issue cards, to no avail. Job cards for the MGNREGS (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) were issued two weeks ago. According to Pratibha Shinde, the village has not seen any opportunities through MGNREGS yet. Ms. Shinde says, “Such was the awe over the Prime Minister's visit that even people who had ration cards were issued new cards free of cost because the existing ones looked old and tattered. It usually costs Rs. 22 for a BPL card holder to get a new card.”
The village, notorious for malnutrition, has a population of just over 1,400. It witnessed an influx of civil servants and media for the first time in 60 years. With that, came concrete roads, freshly painted houses, free foodgrains and Sonia Gandhi's visit. Most villagers still talk of ‘Indira Mai' as the ‘Goddess' who provides for everything. “The mentality of people is that whoever gives them things for free is God. They have no concept of fighting for their rights,” Ms. Shinde states.
Many still don't know how the 12-digit unique identification will help make their lives better. For now, their identity is limited to being farm labourers on land not owned by them.