Punjab Farmers in jitters over scarcity of migrant labourers

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Chandigarh, June 11 (UNI) With the growing construction activity in the NCR region, neighbouring states and their own home states luring the migrant labourers, the farmers in Punjab are finding it hard to sow paddy in their fields this season.

The continuing labour scarcity, which had affected wheat lifting operations badly this season, would hit the paddy transplantation in Punjab which could result in reduction of paddy sowing area," a Bhartiya Kisan Union leader told UNI.

Though as per the state government instructions, the farmers have started planting paddy from June 10, the dwindling number of labourers arriving here from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, is making their task difficult.

The Farmers are becoming more and more apprehensive about incurring huge losses as late sowing of paddy can lead to low yields. Amar Singh of Bagh Sikander village in Fatehgarh Sahib district 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 added.

According to reports from various railway stations including Sirhind, Ludhiana, Amritsar and Rajpura, where labourers usually disembark to reach various farming belts in the state, their number this season has fallen sharply.

Landlords or their agents are thronging the Railway stations, some camping for a last couple of days, and can be seen jostling with each other to grab the workers as soon they get down from the train.

One of the reason being given for this shortage is that they are getting job opportunities with the hectic construction work going on in the NCR region, Himachal industrial belt and Uttarakhand.

Moreover, with the Bihar and Uttar Pradesh governments starting several development projects in the state, most of the labourers are hoping to get work nearer to their native places.

As for the local workers, the farmers seem reluctant to hire them as they charge more and their output is less as compared to those from men from Bihar or Uttar Pradesh. The better ones have opted for MNC and other projects around Punjab cities and many have even left for projects overseas.

Even the state agriculture department has also admitted that the labour scarcity would pose serious problems for the State farmers as far as paddy sowing was concerned.

''Punjabi farmers are now totally depended upon migrant laborers 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,'' 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.

UNI XC JN VN1555

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