Other States

Stranded dancers from Odisha turn farm workers in U.P.

Photo for representational purpose only.

Photo for representational purpose only.   | Photo Credit: Sandeep Rasal

The running of special trains for migrant workers has not solved the problems of all stranded workers. Three professional dancers from Odisha, who were stranded without work in Uttar Pradesh due to the lockdown, turned to agricultural labour to make ends meet. They were rescued by Sabyasachi Mishra, the Odia actor who has been helping people from the State in distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tempted by an attractive contract of performing in 45 stage shows, three young women had left for Uttar Pradesh in January. They had barely performed 10 to 12 stage shows when the nationwide lockdown came into force.

“I saw my hopes being crushed. I had dreamt of earning ₹1 lakh at one go and setting up a small business as we hardly get regular stage shows in Odisha. For few days [after the lockdown], we managed with whatever resources we had. But in the month April, we started to feel the pinch,” said Sunita Sahoo, who had left behind her 13-year-old daughter with her mother in Cuttack, for the work.

Ms Sahoo is trained in modern dance. Her younger colleagues, Pinky Patra and Pinky Sahoo, also have years of experience in performing at public functions.

Put up in a temporary accommodation at Sonughat area in Deoria district of Uttar Pradesh, they tried everything to return. But they could not muster the courage to walk back to Odisha, like the so many migrant workers. For few weeks, their families sent them money but not for too long.

As their funds began to dry up, the women sought work at a wheat farm.

“We were being paid ₹60 for cutting one katha (720 sq ft) area. Though we knew the wage was too low, we did not have any option. Soon after wheat harvesting season was over, we opted to work in a paddy field,” recalled Ms. Sahoo, who had no previous experience of agricultural work.

When they heard of Mr. Mishra’s rescue efforts, they called him in desperation.

“Their story was poignant. The young women opted to work in rice field despite being trained dancers. It shows their resolve to stay afloat without sacrificing dignity. I arranged a taxi for them from Sonughat to Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Nagar where they took train to Bhubaneswar,” the actor said.

After their return on July 5, two of the women are undergoing quarantine in Cuttack while the third has returned home to Angul district.

Mr. Mishra, who has so far alone rescued about 8,000 to 10,000 migrant labourers, said, “Hapless labourers continue to face obstacles in returning to their villages. In fact, the hardship has become more acute. Many are illiterate. They don’t know what registration is and how to lodge a complaint. Many do not have a bank account. They waited for normalcy to return which did not happen.”

Related Topics
Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Aug 11, 2020 7:59:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/stranded-dancers-from-odisha-turn-farm-workers-in-up/article32059004.ece

Next Story