We are treated better

Published : Sep 21, 2012 00:00 IST

KALANAN DAS, 36, a landless agricultural worker of Rampur village in Araria district of Bihar, migrates to Punjab every year. I saw my father leaving our home every year when I was a child, not once, but thrice in a year. That was back in the 1980s. He used to go to Punjab. When he grew old, he stopped and I started to go. At least two members of each family in this village go to Punjab at least twice every year.

We go in groups of 14 or 15 people and mostly around the time of sowing or harvesting. We do not get more than Rs.80 a day here for our work in the fields. But in Punjab, we are hired on contract by a farmer and get paid on the amount of work done and not on a daily basis. For example, we get Rs.2,200 for sowing one acre of land there. Around sowing and harvesting seasons, the farmers wait for us at every railway station in Punjab and Haryana and pick us up from there. They arrange for our stay and provide us one meal a day and tea. We work more than 12 hours a day, but at least we get the money. Usually, one season of sowing or harvesting lasts 25 days. By the end of the season, we come back with anything between Rs.10,000 and Rs.15,000 after all expenses. And we are treated much better there. The landlord here exercises his upper-caste rights a lot. We being Scheduled Castes are looked down upon. But there, if the landlord drinks tea, he offers us tea too. The Sikh landlord treats us like his own son.

Because of two sowing and two harvesting seasons in a year, we have the option of going four times in a year. But we usually go twice except when we are in dire need. The farmer gives all of us one hall-like room to stay in. Taking the family along is impractical.

Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta
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