Where farming means continuous migration

Gagan Kumar and Chhatru Sahani travelled 2000 km from Nibahi village of Deoria district from Uttar Pradesh to Kolhapur district of Maharashtra in search of work. They work as painters for nine months, so that the earnings can be invested in agriculture.


May 15, 2017 | Sanket Jain

According to NSSO’s 64th round survey on Employment, Unemployment and Migration (July 2007 to June 2008), 55 percent of people from rural India migrated to urban areas for employment.

27 year old Gagan Kumar came to Mumbai in 2009 looking for work. Initially he started working as a carpenter for two years and then shifted to painting.

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Gagan said, “Painting is not a fixed job for migrant workers.”

They keep travelling to find one contractor or the other. At times, these contractors don’t pay workers on time as Gagan says, “Few contactors have not paid us the money till date and what can we possibly do about it? Nobody fights for our rights, not even the Government.”

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Gagan says,“See, nobody teaches us these things. You learn on the job by observing people.”
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Gagan proudly shows the design he made in free time.

34 year old Chhatru Sahani never went to school and had to migrate for employment at the age of 14. Talking about his journey, Chhatru said, “I didn’t sign up to take care of animals in the field and hence, my dad asked me to go work at some other place. Since then I have been migrating for employment.”

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Chhatru has been working for 20 years now and has migrated to several states.
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He says, “I don’t want my children to be migrant workers and so I have enrolled them in an English medium school.”

“I always wanted to be a mechanic, but I couldn’t study for it. Poverty is the biggest issue, I have 8 siblings and there was only one bread earner in the family,” added Chhatru. Chhatru has two daughters and a son and he makes sure they go to school. “I don’t have enough money for my children, but I will teach them because I don’t want my children to give up on their dreams,” he added.

“We work as painters for almost nine months a year and earn enough money which can be put into agriculture,” said Gagan and Chhatru.

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They get somewhere between Rs 400 and 500 daily, for 12 hours work shift.

Many people from Nibahi village have migrated for employment. Higher amount of chemicals in strong paints creates a lot of problems for the painters. They said that we need to consume at least sprite or alcohol to get back to normal after a day’s work.

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Chhatru Sahani (left) and Gagan Kumar (right), talk about the problems faced by painters.

Talking about the work, Gagan said, “Nobody wants to work as a painter in this dirty uniform. If I roam outside in a market, you won’t be able to recognize me.”
Poverty is the biggest issue for these workers as the bread earners in the family are less or at times restricted to just a single member. Often, children from a very young age are pushed into work and migration is the only alternative left for many. According to 64th round survey by NSSO only 1 percent people migrated to rural areas.

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He asks, “Where are the jobs in rural India? I’ve been to many cities, but rural India is restricted only to agriculture which doesn’t even pay enough for survival.”

Gagan smilingly says, “If I don’t go back to my village, you’ll see me here for at least six years. That’s the amount of workload and now people have stopped coming into the field of painting.” Both Gagan and Chhatru meet their children and family once in nine months.

While Chhatru and Gagan have given up on their dreams, they are striving hard to educate their children. Rural India is a place where a child eagerly waits for the day when his parents don’t have to migrate, so that he can spend some time with them.

Photos: Sanket Jain

 

 

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