It’s not a rosy picture in arid Kalyana Karnataka

Migrants and stranded people wait to board a bus at Kempegowda bus terminus, to return to their native places, amid the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown, in Bengaluru.   | Photo Credit: PTI

After being stranded in cities such as Bengaluru for over a month with no work, thousands of migrant workers are now heading to their native places in Kalyana Karnataka region. However, what the impoverished districts can offer them by way of alternative livelihood is a question that haunts all of them.

Seasonal migration is typical of the region where agricultural labourers and poor farmers migrate to find work mainly in the construction industry. They return twice a year for a month or two — in May–June to engage in sowing activities and then in October–November for harvesting.

This year, COVID-19 lockdown has advanced their return by almost a month. Many of them, particularly those with small landholding, may engage themselves in farm activities with the onset of monsoon after a month. The real problem will be after sowing.

Industrially backward

Seasonal migration is on account of lack of job opportunities in the industrially-backward region. Barring a few irrigated areas, the arid region cannot offer work for them throughout the year and flourishing construction industry in megacities that mainly requires unskilled labourers attracts them.

“The Kalyana Karnataka region has too few industries to accommodate workers who are returning home and slowdown has already hit them hard. Moreover, there is no sign of revival of the construction industry in the region. If the construction industry in megacities does not resume, the region will be hit by joblessness,” said Amarnath Patil, president of the Hyderabad Karnataka Chamber of Commerce.

Many of the existing industries, particularly dal mills in Kalaburagi and rice mills in Raichur, have employed labourers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. These mills too are already in crisis and are unlikely to generate more jobs to accommodate the migrant labourers.

As on Saturday, about 600 workers have returned to Raichur and Yadgir out of thousands who have migrated. A majority of them do not have job cards and they have been now asked to register with the panchayats so that they can avail themselves of MGNREGA work.

Workers’ anxieties

Workers The Hindu spoke to were not sure if they would be returning to Bengaluru at a later date. They are concerned as much about their health as they are about when they will be able to find work in the cities. “I want to relax for a while. I may not even go back,” said Mahadevappa, a native of Deodurg taluk who worked as construction labourer in Bengaluru.

But people such as Devaraj, a native of Chiratnal village in Sindhanur taluk of Raichur district, want to return even though he is apprehensive. “We will possibly go back after a few months. But a few will go first to check the situation and then others will follow,” he said.

Meanwhile, officials in this region now have the responsibility of ensuring jobs under MGNREGA for those who have returned home.

(With inputs from Ravikumar Naraboli in Yadgir)

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 6:35:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/its-not-a-rosy-picture-in-arid-kalyana-karnataka/article31491255.ece

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