To Mumbai from Mandya with job dreams and back

Hundreds of migrants in distress moving back to their homes in south Karnataka has thrown up a pattern often not visible — that three taluks in the neighbouring districts of Hassan and Mandya have a large number of people choosing Mumbai, rather than cities closer to home such as Mysuru and Bengaluru, to find work. This has been the trend for over 60 years.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the special connection the people of K.R. Pet and Nagamangala taluks in Mandya and Channarayapatna taluk in Hassan have with the commercial capital of the country. In the past 20 days, hundreds of people have travelled back to their native places there. In fact, all the COVID-19 cases reported in Hassan and most of the cases reported in Mandya have a travel history to Maharashtra.

Why Mumbai?

It is not clear when and why people started to move to Mumbai from these parts, which have some common features. While all three are drought-prone taluks, they also have had a long history of being exposed to travellers from across India. Melkote, a pilgrimage centre for the Srivaishnava sect in Pandavapura taluk of Mandya, and Shravanabelagola, a Jain pilgrimage centre in Channarayapatna taluk, have been visited by devotees from different places over the centuries.

“There were two trains a week from Arsikere to Mumbai about 40 years ago. By then, Mumbai was attracting people from different corners of the country. With no income from the agriculture field, a few took the train to Mumbai. They took up small jobs initially and earned well. This inspired many others to follow suit,” said S.N. Ashok Kumar, a journalist and resident of Shravanabelagola.

Those days there were no other cities in Karnataka to match Mumbai in terms of job opportunities. The big city offered anonymity and opportunities. The migrants started working as waiters, helpers at hotels and bakeries, attendants at lodges, dabbawallas, rickshaw pullers, insurance agents, medical representatives, and more. “If a boy goes missing for some reason, the general perception among the people around here is that he must have gone to Mumbai,” said Mr. Kumar. One can find several hundreds of people from the two districts in Mumbai, Sangli, Satara, Nashik, Andheri, Santacruz and other places. Till the lockdown was imposed, at least three private buses moved between this area and Mumbai every day.

For better or worse

Some of those who migrated to Mumbai started off with meagre incomes, started their own business later, and even built houses in Mumbai. A woman, who has been quarantined after she returned to Channarayapatna, told The Hindu that her father-in-law had moved to Mumbai 40 years ago. He started working at a bakery and eventually started his own snack-making unit. Now his children look after the business. “We have a house in Mumbai and many people work at our unit.”

Many have brought back money and invested it on land and built houses. “Mumbai is a colourful city. It does not disappoint anyone who goes there seeking a job,” said Ramesh, a hotelier in Mumbai.

On the other hand, there are also hundreds staying in slums without proper accommodation. Many run roadside eateries. “We spend most of our time outside and go home only to sleep. We were the worst-hit during the lockdown, with no alternative source of income, and started to leave either by walking or by pooling money to get a transport facility,” said a returnee quarantined in Hassan.

The story of these areas having a special connection with Mumbai also has a dark side. Among the HIV-infected people in Hassan, the most are from Channarayapatna taluk. Health workers feel that the Mumbai connection could be among the factors contributing to this worrying fact.

On voters list

However, a majority of these migrants have retained their names on the voters list at their native place. They do not miss the elections. In fact, K.C. Narayana Gowda, MLA for K.R. Pet, who is the Minister for Horticulture and Sericulture and is in charge of Mandya district, has business establishments in Mumbai.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 12:35:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/to-mumbai-with-job-dreams-and-back/article31665805.ece

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