Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Decadal journeys: debt and despair spur urban growth

The Hindu, Sept 26, 2011
P. Sainath
From the late 1990s, as the agrarian crisis began to bite, communities that had not resorted to migration before did so.

The re-classification of villages and towns, and the changes this brings to the nation's rural-urban profile, happens every decade. Yet only Census 2011 shows us a huge turnaround, with urban India adding more people (91 million) than rural India (90.6 million) for the first time in 90 years. Clearly, something huge has happened in the last 10 years that drives those numbers. And that is: huge, uncharted migrations of people seeking work as farming collapses. We may be looking at — and missing — this cruel drama in the countryside. A drama of millions leaving their homes in search of jobs that are not there. Of villages swiftly losing able-bodied adults, leaving behind the old, hungry and vulnerable. Of families that break up as their members head in diverse directions.

Neither the Census nor the National Sample Survey capture the fastest growing human movement of all — footloose migration (That is, the desperate search for work that drives poorer people in multiple directions with no clear final destination.). They are not geared to record short-term, step-by-step movements. For instance, many of the two million Oriyas outside their State in any year fall into this group. Take those from the Bolangir or Nuapada districts. Typically, they might spend a month or two in Raipur pulling rickshaws. Then work two or three months at brick kilns in Andhra Pradesh. Then serve as construction labourers shuttling around Mumbai or Thane for a few weeks each (Where they are often used on the higher floors in risky scaffolding. Local labour would demand more for that.).

Often, displaced farmers and workers simply move to towns and other places within the same State. As in Maharashtra or Andhra Pradesh for instance.

True, the Census cannot capture these movements of labour. Yet, if it still shows us the urban-rural numbers it does, that suggests a giant drama we have not begun to measure. The urban population and towns are swelling. And the Urban-Rural Growth Differential (URGD) is at its highest in 30 years despite the population growth rates falling all around (see Table). The massive migrations have gone hand in hand with a deepening agrarian crisis. One that has also seen over 240,000 farmers commit suicide between 1995 and 2009, most of them mired in debt (The Hindu, December 27, 2010). All along, there have been non-official, fragmented and micro signals of the chaos. Easy to dismiss as anecdotal, but still there to see if we choose to.

In the first half of the 1990s, there were just around three or four buses a day from Khariar in Nuapada district of Orissa to Raipur in Chhattisgarh. Now there are 11. Earlier, these buses mostly set out from Bhawanipatna (Kalahandi district headquarters) and went via Khariar to Raipur. Today they start out from more towns and reach much smaller places en route to pick up work-seekers. There have also been massive spikes in train travel to Raipur from and via this region. Both in the numbers of trains and passenger load. And a huge increase in informal ‘van' and jeep services ferrying thousands across the border. “What is left here to stay for?” Bishnu Podh, a footloose migrant in Nuapada, asked me. “Across the border there is a chance of work.” When Raipur emerged as a State capital, the human flow became a flood.

In 1994, there were few or no Kerala state transport corporation buses between Mananthavady in Wayanad district of Kerala and Kutta town in Karnataka. Till the farm crisis struck, cash-crop rich Wayanad had been a district of in-migration. So much so that it was called the “Gulf of Kerala.” By 2004, the KSRTC was running 24 trips daily between the two towns. “All work in Wayanad has come to a standstill,” Shinoj Thomas, a migrant that year, told me aboard a bus. “Just see the countless half-built houses in the district. These were begun when farming was doing well. Once the crisis came along, construction ceased. No one had any money to continue”. (The Hindu, December 26, 2004)

In 1993, there was barely one full service a week from the Mahbubnagar bus depot in the Telangana region to Mumbai. Ten years later there were around 40. (Not counting private, fly-by-night operators). “Without Mumbai and Pune we cannot survive,” Pandu Nayak, an Adivasi migrant had told me on a bus. “Our households are deep in debt. Our children, starving.” By 2003, the travellers too had changed. Earlier, there had been mainly Dalits and Lambada Adivasis, mostly agricultural labourers. Now there were carpenters, potters, small and even not-so-small farmers. A poignant moment during a 2003 trip was seeing a once-bonded labourer and his former master, a farmer, on the same bus to Mumbai, both seeking work. Meanwhile, each year, tens of thousands displaced by projects and SEZs from Polepally to Polavaram land up in Hyderabad and the surrounding urban regions.

The economic crisis of 2008 saw the closure of countless powerloom units in Gujarat. Yet in 2009, over 5,000 ‘unreserved' travellers from Ganjam, Orissa, still boarded trains for Gujarat almost every day at the Berhampur railway station. These were and are mostly labourers migrating for work in Surat and Mumbai. “Our employers [in Surat] know we have few options,” says Ganesh Pradhan in Ganjam. There are no days off, no recess, and 12-hour shifts. “Work is up, pay is down. The lunch break has gone…we're losing money and strength…. [But] it's not as if we know that things are much better anywhere else.” The list of such examples from across the country is endless.

Who are these migrants? From the late 90s, as the crisis began to bite, communities that had not resorted to migration before did so. The Dalits of Kalahandi in Orissa were migrants much earlier. From the ‘90s they were joined by Adivasis, milk-producer OBC groups and others. “The migrations of these past 15-20 years are overwhelmingly distress driven, footloose and often disruptive of the lifestyle, roots and family bonds of the migrant,” says economist Dr. K. Nagaraj, professor at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. “Very few of them gain in terms of acquiring skill and capital unlike those from the middle and upper classes. When the latter migrate, they usually make big gains in skill, capital and mobility in the jobs ladder.” This exodus signals the ruin of petty production in the countryside.

And yet, this great outflow of human beings from their homes in the villages is not spontaneous. A massive chain has sprung up of middlemen and labour contractors who gain heavily from this exodus and thus seek to organise it to their benefit. They supply labour at cheap rates to a variety of patrons — from town and city contractors and builders to corporations, including multinational companies. This not only helps depress the local wage, but also offers the patrons a pool of cheap labour that is desperate, unorganised, and thus relatively docile. The employers don't have to bother about the migrants' security, workplace conditions or any standard benefits a city labourer might know of and claim. To the workers, this system offers quick if low payments, crushing debt and unending despair.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Odisha must not lose opportunity for a Central Agriculture University

Sept 24, 2011

Dear Honourable Chief Minister Mr Patnaik and Chief Secretary Mr Patnaik,

Recently Chief Minister of West Bengal Ms Mamata Benerjee has written to the central Govt. for establishing a Central Agriculture University in the backward region of West Bengal as the Central Government is giving special importance for agricultural growth in the eastern part of the nation including Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand etc.

The performance of agriculture in Odisha is adorable during your leadership and Odisha must not lose the opportunity for a Central Agriculture University.

Agriculture is contributing substantially to the economy and human resources in Odisha. It is the prime source to the rural economy and is backbone of the nation, especially for backward areas like KBK.

Social development of backward parts of the country largely depends on the development of agriculture sector and many of these backward pockets in the nation have a great agriculture potential.

Kalahandi was known as the rice bowl of Odisha at one time. Today also this region shares a high percentage in rice, pulses and cotton production in the state. Realizing its potential in agriculture, state Govt. has established an Agriculture College at Bhawanipatna in 2009. Establishing a Central Agriculture University here will further catapult growth of agriculture and agro-based economy in KBK region.

Central Agriculture University in Kalahandi will not only trigger the development of advanced technology and research skill in agriculture sector as par with other national institutions in the world class level but also benefit the local economy by improving the living standard for marginalized people in backward cluster of KBK, Gajpati and Kandhamal, as Bhawanipatna is located centrally to this tribal and backward cluster.
Ministry of Agriculture has already established Central Agriculture University at Imphal, one of the backward locations, for serving North Eastern states. Recently the Union agriculture ministry had also given the go-ahead to develop a Central Agriculture University in Jhansi in Bundelkhand, another backward location, which can serve the interest of North part of the nation. Banaras Hindu University, a central university, has also agricultural discipline serving the interest in the north part of the nation.

In eastern part of the nation, although we had appealed for the same, West Bengal Govt. has already taken initiative in advanced in our line and sent a proposal for establishing a Central Agriculture University in the backward Medinapore of West Bengal.




We sincerely request Odisha Govt. also send a formal proposal immediately to the central Govt. for establishing Central Agriculture University at Kalahandi in the 12th plan period for Odisha.

Thanking you and best regards

Digambara Patra

Friday, September 23, 2011

Possible Central School at Dharamgarh: Hope it materialises soon

Our Concern:
There was an assessment and proposal to establish a Central School at Dharamgarh in Kalahandi in the year 2010. Still now the school has not been established for which local parents and students are seriously suffering. Why it has been so delay and what is the progress in this regard.
Office of the Chief Minister

Grievance Cell, Qrs No VIII-DS-I,Unit-V, Bhubaneswar-751001

Dated: 21-09-2011

Digambara Patra

Subject : - Report on grievance petition on Registration No.

Received back from Planning and Co-ordination Deptt. Hence redirected to School and Mass Edn Deptt vide CMOFF/D/2011/00727.

( Chief Ministers Office )
Deputy Secretary
Phone No. :0674-2530700
Email :cmo@nic.in

Khariar to Moter road needs attention

Our concern:
Khariar to Moter via Golamunda, Dharamgarh road route in Kalahandi and Nuapada districts has been in worst conditions. Due to lack of good quality road people of Nuapada district are forced to travel long distance via Bhawanipatna to reach Koraput, Nabarangpur and Malkangiri region. Why this route has not been made a state highway for the bordering region people in Odisha? If steps have been taken, please mention what these steps are taken. This can be made a state highway and a new bridge should come in Udanti river to link between NH201 and NH217 for the benefit of KBK people.
Dated: 03-05-2011

Digambara Patra
Subject : - Report on grievance petition on Registration No.


Chief Engineer (DPI & Roads), Orissa has been requested vide Works Department Letter No. 2755 dated 10.03.2011 to take immediate necessary action as deemed proper for quick redressal of the grievance petition.

Vedanta's refinery expansion plan suffers another setback

Times of India, Sept 17, 2011
NEW DELHI: Vedanta has suffered another setback in its fight-back to expand the aluminium refinery in Orissa after the Union environment ministry had struck down its environment clearance for violations.

The Cuttack bench of the Orissa High Court backed the environment ministry and ordered that Vedanta would have to apply afresh for a clearance for expansion if it wants to.

The court in its order said that the ministry was "justified in withdrawing the term of reference and in cancelling the public hearing proceeding held in respect of proposed expansion". It also said that the ministry was "also justified in holding that the process for environmental clearance has to be started de novo for which the petitioner (Vedanta) has to submit fresh proposal to the ministry under the procedure laid down".

Projects held up for want of electrification

IBNlive, Sept 17, 2011
Express News Service , The New Indian Express

BHAWANIPATNA: For a goat farm at Jaring and two poultry hatcheries at Bhawanipatna and Junagarh, Rs. 52 lakh and Rs. 20 lakh have been sanctioned in 2008-09 by the DRDA, Kalahandi, under the Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY). The projects, however, are yet to see the light of the day in the absence of electrification.

While the projects have ready infrastructure, they have not be made operational.� The proposed goat farm at Jaring was mooted to breed goats and capacity building of rural poor to manage goats effectively. The aim was to increase income of people who have taken up goat farming in the district.

As per the programme, 400 female goats and 20 Black Bengal bucks, Jamunpuri, Beetal and Sirci varieties will be reared in this farm and the produced goats will be supplied to the poor farmers at affordable prices under the SGSY scheme. To make the farm self-sustaining, fodder cultivation was also� proposed.

Similarly, the proposed poultry hatcheries at Bhawanipatna and Junagarh are aimed at producing 14,000 eggs each. The eggs would be supplied to SGSY beneficiaries to boost the rural economy. Construction work and installation of machineries for these units have also been completed. However, electrification of all these projects is yet to be done.

Official sources said Wesco has been entrusted with the electrification work for these projects and the required funds were deposited by the Veterinary Department as per an estimate prepared by Wesco. The Wesco, on its part, has not completed the work till date and engaged contractors for the purpose who are only delaying the work. The Veterinary Department has now engaged the Orissa Small Industries Corporation Ltd to complete the electrification work.

(Follow IBNLive.com on Facebook and on Twitter for updates that you can share with your friends.)

The Politics of Food

Shared by Sri Dillip Kumar Das