Labour shortage may hit Punjab paddy farming

Migrant labourers are sticking to their native States due to availability of ample job opportunities now

Over 90 per cent of paddy sowing in Punjab is done by migrant labourers from Bihar and U.P.

Landlords are reluctant to hire local labourers as their output is less as compared to the migrants

Fatehgarh Sahib: Though as per the Punjab Government instructions, the farmers have started planting paddy from Tuesday but peasants are finding it hard to cultivate the crop as number of labourers coming from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have dwindled.

Punjabi landlords are reluctant to hire local Dalit labourers as they charge more and it is also felt that their output is less as compared to those from Bihar or Uttar Pradesh.

Now the farmers are even ready to offer liquor to labourers.

Farmers from adjoining areas have been seen on Tuesday to make a beeline outside the Sirhind railway station of district Fatehgarh Sahib in order to get hold of migrant labourers arriving here.

A beeline

Some of the farmers are camping at the railway station for the past couple of days in hope of hiring them in advance so that they can start paddy cultivation on right time as per the government instructions, sources said.

Gurjit Singh of Tarkhan Majra said he had been coming to the railway station from last week but he had not able to hire anyone.

A leader of farmers’ union said that to cultivate one acre four labourers are needed. Many farmers with acres of land have not been able to get even a single labourer this sowing season.

One of the reason being given for this shortage is that with the Bihar and Uttar Pradesh Governments starting several development projects in the State and most of the labourers are preferring jobs in their home towns.

The farmers are becoming more and more apprehensive about incurring huge losses as late sowing of paddy can lead to low yields.

‘A likely disaster’

Amar Singh of Bagh Sikander village said it was almost impossible to cultivate the fields without migrant labourers.

“In case we do not get them, the season can prove to be a disaster for us,” he lamented.

He said that he is ready to offer wine to attract labourer.

He said earlier food is provided but now to tackle problem of labour shortage he is ready to offer liquor.

The continuing labour scarcity, which affected wheat lifting operations badly this season, farmers’ unions are now foreseeing its adverse impact on paddy sewing in Punjab.

“The manner the labour shortage is being experienced by the farmers, it is certain that it would hit the paddy transplantation in Punjab which could result in reduction of paddy sowing area,” said a Bhartiya Kisan Union leader. The paddy transplantation in Punjab had scheduled to start from June 10 after the State Government asked the farmers to avoid paddy sowing before the month of June in view of declining water table in the State.

The seriousness of the situation could be gauged from the fact that over 90 per cent of paddy sowing in Punjab is done by migrant labourers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Moreover, the State agriculture department has also admitted that the labour scarcity would pose serious problems for the State farmers as far as paddy sowing is concerned.

“Punjabi farmers are now totally depended upon migrant labourers for their agricultural operation requirements. In such a scenario (labour shortage), you could well imagine how tough the going would be for farmers when they start paddy sowing from the next month,” said a senior official of agriculture department.

Acute shortage of labour had also hit the wheat lifting operations in Punjab during the wheat harvesting season last month, which led to pilling up of wheat bags and posed inconvenience to farmers in unloading of their wheat crop at mandis. -- PTI