Farm workers from West Bengal gain a reputation in Telugu States for their paddy sowing skills

Four lakh agricultural labourers migrate to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana annually in search of work during the Kharif and Rabi seasons, say local agents

August 17, 2023 10:50 pm | Updated 10:50 pm IST - Visakhapatnam

Migrant workers from West Bengal working on a paddy field in Rajavommangi village of Alluri Sitarama Raju district.

Migrant workers from West Bengal working on a paddy field in Rajavommangi village of Alluri Sitarama Raju district.

An acute shortage of labour in agricultural fields across the Telugu States is being plugged by farm workers from West Bengal, whose unique paddy sowing skills are holding them in good stead.

Farmers owning vast tracts of agricultural land in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are turning for help to the migrant workers from West Bengal, who come in groups during the Kharif (June) and Rabi (December) seasons. They waste little time getting down to business, and take less than three weeks to sow paddy in the entire field. They then return home, having earned upwards of around ₹30,000 for the roughly two weeks of work.

It is estimated that in one year, for both the Kharif and Rabi seasons combined, around four lakh workers from West Bengal visit the paddy-sowing districts in the two Telugu States. They are given food and shelter, and the remuneration is competitive, according to local agents who act as mediators between the farmers here and the labour contractors back in West Bengal.

How the system works

There are around 300 agents who are in touch with labour contractors in West Bengal. Farmers in need of labour contact the agents and relay their requirements, who in turn call up the contractors and ask for farm workers to be sent accordingly.

An agent at Palakollu in West Godavari district, D. Lakshman, said, “An estimated four lakh workers from West Bengal come to the Telugu States during the Kharif and Rabi seasons for sowing of paddy. Our farmers prefer the workers from Bengal because of their discipline and skill.”

The workers arrive in groups of 12 to 15. One or two members of the group work as cooks. They live in temporary shelters set up by the farmers close to the agricultural fields.

‘Disciplined and efficient’

T. Nageswara Rao, an agricultural farmer at Rajavommangi, said, “I hired a 13-member team of Bengal workers for my 110-acre paddy field. They completed the sowing work in 16 days. They start their work at 5.30 am and are done by 5 p.m. They are disciplined and efficient. I paid ₹4,000 per acre to the group. Each member of the group must have earned at least ₹34,000 for the 16 days of work.”

Sushanth, an agricultural labourer from the Sundarbans in West Bengal, narrated his experience of working here in a phone conversation. “I returned home yesterday (August 16) after finishing my work in A.P. and Telangana. The last customer I worked for was from Rajavommangi village in ASR district. We earned at least ₹60,000 each during our two-month stay in the two States. For the same work in my home State, we get paid around ₹25,000.”

Labourers prefer to work in districts where there is heavy paddy cultivation, such as the Godavari districts, Guntur, Krishna, ASR and Srikakulam.

Speaking to The Hindu, ASR district Agriculture Officer S.D.S. Nandh said, “The process of sowing done by the Bengal labourers is locally known as ‘Bengal Udupu’ (line sowing). They are experts at this process. Farmers get better benefits due to the sowing procedure. This is one of the best scientific methods for effective paddy cultivation in order to achieve bumper yields.”

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