Out of the 132 families in this Bihar village, at least hundred have seen their younger members migrate in search of work, but not necessarily a better life.
Bihar, along with Uttar Pradesh, has accounted for the country’s highest number of migrants over the years, according to census data. A majority of them leave in search of employment opportunities in the cities of northern India and often take up jobs in the informal sector which do not guarantee rights and dignity. Bihar also accounts for the second highest rate of labour migration to countries in the Gulf, after Uttar Pradesh.
Men and women, boys and girls are also trafficked from the state to other states and forced into bonded labour. What fuels these cycles of migration and trafficking is the lack of economic opportunities coupled with social exploitation and exclusion.
“Only the elderly live here, the rest of them go out to find employment,” says an elderly woman from Uman Bigha village in Wazirganj, Gaya.
According to Community Correspondent Amit Kumar, Uman Bigha is home to 132 families, out of which, at least a hundred families have seen members migrate to other places in search of work. On a visit to the village, he found several houses locked and deserted altogether.
“We go out to earn for our families. If the government had employment opportunities for us here, we wouldn’t leave,” says Phulwa Devi, a resident of the village.
Most families from the village have migrated to Kanpur and to cities in West Bengal to work in brick kilns. They work in the kilns for up to 12 hours a day for nine months in a year, and earn merely 500-600 rupees a month. Often, their underage children also work alongside.
“There is no school around the brick kiln, what will our children do? They also work with us. It is not the contractor’s responsibility to educate our children, it is on us, but we can’t put them in schools, ”asks another resident.
The labourers are hired by a ‘contractor’. A study on labour migration from two cities in Bihar elaborate on this process — labourers gather at specific localities and ‘advertise’ their availability for work, they are taken to the cities by the contractors thereafter, and often bring their families along.
Apart from living in subhuman conditions, without suitable public facilities, economic and social security, labour migrants are also at the receiving end of suspicion, alienation and xenophobia. The recent exodus of migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in the wake of a rape perpetrated by a migrant from Bihar is a case in point.
What is also hard to miss is the social and economic profile of the migrants from Bihar. According to the aforementioned study, majority of the migrants belong to Most Backward Classes (MBC) and Economically Backward Classes (EBC), followed by Other Backward Classes (OBC) and Mahadalit communities. An analysis of the education profile reveals that the highest proportion of migrants have completed primary education, upto matriculation. This is followed by those with primary schooling, and then by those with no literacy at all.
It is clearly deprivation, both economic and social, that is pushing families to move out. It doesn’t necessarily mean a better life but at least one with minimum economic security. The question to be asked is, where does the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, or MNREGA, the world’s largest job guarantee scheme, figure in this?
“We don’t have job cards, we don’t know anything about it, how will get one made?”, says Krishnan.
Support the families in Uman Bigha to get employment opportunities under MNREGA in their own village by calling the Block Development Officer of Wazirganj at +91-9431818489, and urging him to act immediately.
Video by Community Correspondent Amit Kumar
Article by Alankrita Anand, a member of the VV Editorial Team