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Paddy harvest machine crushes hopes of landless farmers

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FARM LABOURERS' ENVY: A harvest machine at a paddy field near Thiruvadanai in Ramanathapuram district.
FARM LABOURERS' ENVY: A harvest machine at a paddy field near Thiruvadanai in Ramanathapuram district.

C. Jaishankar

Deprives them of chances of getting seasonal employment in rural areas

Ramanathapuram: Though the paddy harvest machine has come in handy for farmers, who have cultivated paddy, it has deprived landless farmers of their chances of getting seasonal employment in rural areas.

In Ramanathapuram district alone, according to a rough estimate, more than 8 lakh people depend on agriculture and agriculture-oriented works for livelihood. Most of them are landless farm labourers. They get seasonal employment only in the months of September, October, November, December and January. From September to January is the only season to cultivate paddy in the district.

At the fag end of the season, harvest is in full swing in many parts of the district. A majority of the farmers have heaved a sigh of relief, as they are sure of good yield. Despite of this, smiles are absent on the faces of landless coolies, as they are not getting enough employment, because of the large scale `invasion' of the harvest machines in the district.

More than 100 paddy-harvest machines have arrived in the district from Erode, Salem and Coimbatore this year. The rent for using a machine is Rs.1000 for an hour. Farmers prefer these machines rather than manual harvesting, owing to cost effectiveness.

"For the harvest machine, an hour is enough to completely harvest paddy on one acre. In the case of manual harvesting, it will take more than two days to complete harvest on one acre. Moreover, we have to spend more than Rs.2000 as coolie for labourers. Hence, we engage harvest machines," says M. Kulanthaisamy of Thiruvadanai.

Currently, men labourers charge Rs.100 for a day's work. The wage for women workers is Rs.70 a day. Besides this, they get a small portion of the harvest produce as a good gesture from landowners.

"Even during the last harvesting period, we got good employment opportunities. But, only a handful of labourers are getting chances this time, because of the heavy arrival of the harvest machines. With no earning this season, I don't know how to solve my financial problems. We are not fully opposing the use of machineries on farm field, but that should not deprive us of our chances of earning for livelihood," says Kamatchi, a landless labourer of Thiruvadanai.

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