COVID-19: Lockdown triggers reverse migration in Karnataka

Construction workers maintaining social distancing while leaving to their native place from Bengaluru on Friday.   | Photo Credit: Sampath Kumar G.P.

The 21-day lockdown in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 has resulted in the reverse migration of a large number of daily wage workers and people employed in the unorganised sector.

People in hundreds from Mysuru and Bengaluru cities have returned to their villages ever since the COVID-19 fallout began to unfold early this month. However, it reached a peak a day before the 21-day lockdown was announced.

Also, the four-hour window between Prime Minister Narendra Modi making the announcement — at 8 p.m. on March 24 — and the lockdown being implemented — at midnight — saw many workers leave in private vehicles to their villages.

There is hardly a village in Mysuru district where men had not abandoned agriculture and migrated to urban areas in search of greener pastures. “A majority of them were daily wage workers in the construction sector, and many have now returned home,” said Puttamadhu, of the State Agricultural Workers’ Union. “K.M. Doddi village in Mandya district, where I live, has scores of families with at least one member who has returned in view of the lockdown.”

This is also true for villages in the H.D. Kote-Nanjangud-Chamarajanagar belt, from where a large number of men tend to migrate to Mysuru, Kodagu and the adjoining bordering States of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in search of work in plantations. But the reverse migration started to kick in once the curbs began to be announced. “Many workers took a cue from the ‘Janata Curfew’ and managed to return within the short window they had before the nationwide lockdown came into effect. But workers in hundreds are still stranded, unable to return to their villages owing to the suspension of transportation,” said Atahalli Devaraj, of the Karnataka State Sugarcane Cultivators’ Association.

Kurubur Shanthakumar, president of the association, said that even people who had left their villages about 20 years ago have returned in large numbers and rejoined their families, and this has resulted in a problem of another sort. “There is a glut of labour force in rural areas. The agricultural season is over and there is no farm work. Also, none of those who returned are adept at agriculture-related work, and hence they will be without employment till normality returns,” he said. The only silver lining, he said, is that they are with their families and will not go hungry.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 11:39:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/covid-19-lockdown-triggers-reverse-migration-in-karnataka/article31186138.ece

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