Oh! the lost wanderers

Bijapur Capstone Lifestyle Sindgi State Taluk

North Karnataka’s Sindagi Taluk of Bijapur district is swiftly losing its small local communities, as many over the period of time have shifted to neighbouring districts and states owing to the drought prone unfertilized lands.

Kurian Joe

A family of migrants waiting to catch a bus in Sindagi.

Seasonal migration has become a trend among the socio-economic backward communities of Sindagi Taluk. With lack of remuneration for their work and fewer job opportunities in the dry land, many people prefer becoming a migrant in their own state in search for better lifestyle. But do these “migrants” get what they desire?

With his bright red cap on, under the strong and harsh sun stands Bheem Sha, 34-year-old who sells sugar cane juice in the streets of Sindagi, a Taluk of Bijapur district in North Karnataka.

Hailing from an agricultural background, Bheem Sha left his village in Othihal six years ago in search of work to a neighbouring village in the state of Maharashtra. He currently works as a construction contract labourer as it fetches him more for a living than working with his father on rented land. When there is no demand forcontract labourers he returns home to his family of five, and sells sugarcane juice during the season. Bheem Sha explained that it isn’t as easy as it seems due to the indifferences and social constraints he faces in another state.

“When I went to get a SIM card for my phone, I was asked to show my identity card. But despite providing them a photo copy of my Aadhar card, they refused to give a SIM in Maharashtra,” he said hesitantly.

“I couldn’t argue with them as I am a minority in their view,” he added

Identity crisis is one of the few problems that the inter-intra state migrants face in India. 

With 84 percent of the Scheduled tribe and Scheduled caste residing in the rural parts of India, migration and timely migration has become a part of their lives for better opportunities and living conditions. Karnataka is the eighth largest state in India, diverse in culture and tradition, the state is famous for providing quality sugarcane, cotton, handicraft, ragi, silk, technology and last but not the least migrants. Around 590 kilometres away from the capital city of Bengaluru, Bijapur district lies on the borders of Maharashtra and Karnataka, making it easier for locals to migrate to other nearby Taluks in Maharashtra, Goa and Andhra Pradesh.

Drought affected areas of Karnataka

Prolonged drought in this area has forced many to leave their homes as Sindagi doesn’t provided many agricultural activities.  With only 11.58 percent (3.79 hectares) of land under irrigation, out of the sown area of 64.38 percent, Bijapur’s economy has been crushed in past few decades owing to the unpredictable droughts in the area. Due to which farming and agriculture is not a profitable occupation in Sindagi.

Vijay Kadakbhavi, the Tehsildar of Sindagi Taluk said, “There’s a gradual decrease in the population as every year our taluk witness a number of people migrating to other states and nearby villages in search of better job opportunities to support their family.” One such famous nomadic community is the Lambanis. This community consists of 1.1 million people with most of their population is concentrated in northern Karnataka.

For them migration is not an option but a lifestyle. With their age-old artisans, they leave a mark where ever they go, but due to industrialization and modernization picking up rapidly, this community faces unemployment and to support their families have no option but to get themselves into small scale labourer work.

Despite living in extreme poor conditions, the Lambani women have made their way up to women empowerment to some extent. Not having the privilege to schooling in her early days, Maya, a 40-year old woman wrapped in a vibrant colour attire with mirror pieces embroidered all over her long frilled skirt, that reflect the sun rays onher face every time she moves, is a migrant from Akkigund village of Gadag district.

Mother to four, she used to work as a household worker back in her town. After being exploited by the land owners who used to pay her Rs 30 per day with one-time meal, she along with her children decided to shift to Sindagi in hope to get better wages. Here she joined another group of Lambani community who work as fruit and vegetable sellers, street hawkers and labourers at brick factories.

She earns around Rs 200-250 a day depending on the sale, with which she still finds it hard to support a family of six.

“I’m waiting for my elder son to become capable enough to earn for himself. He is 10 years old and is very helpful. But I don’t want any big ‘Babbu’ to take advantage of his tender age by making him work extra hours without paying him appropriate wages,” said Maya, feeding roti to Kailash, her son who sits next to her in the Mandi.

“Life is not good, but its better here compared to what we have experienced back there. But we are soon planning to shift to Belgavi,” she added, with a frail smile.

A woman of the Lambani Community

In a research paper ‘Migration among SCs with special reference to Bijapur Taluk’, Prakash Lamani and PM Honakeri shows that out of 120 respondents taken from six different villages, majority of the migrants are youth. The impact of this type of distribution is that respondents in the age group of 15-45 years are in a position to resort to migration for their livelihood for a long period.

One of the major factors is the education level. The study also elucidates that 25.5 percent of the migrated family-members have received education up to primary level, 9.78 percent are high school level and only 1.15 percent are completely graduated. Remaining 59.76 percent are illiterate.

Syed Ahmed, the Chief Officer of the local corporation in Sindagi, says that illiteracy is one of the major issues why the migrants have to shift. “Despite having enough opportunities in the village people don’t want to stay here because of the wage difference. This process of migration is mainly seen in the communities that are not well educated, hence they are not able to negotiate with the owners,” he added.

Last year in December, the Karnataka government drafted an educational policy to ensure proper and quality education for migrant children under the ‘Rights of Children Labourers-2019’ to the Karnataka High Court. In a bid to bring down the dropout rates among school going children, the government has also asked to keep a track of migrant children in the schools.

“The issue here is lack of proper data and survey done by the government authorities or private organisations in maintaining a count of migrants and labourers in the state. This makes it difficult to identify them and provide them with subsidies and other benefits,” said Ahmed.

A house of a migrant in the village of Othihal ,sindagi

Although the contribution of migrant workers to build the nation’s economy is tremendous. It’s upsetting that the centre is slowly shifting their attention from providing employment and subsidies to these unorganised sector workers.  And the current budget for the financial year 2020-21 shows how the centre and state government struggle to provide financial and social protection. Mahatma Gandhi National Rural employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNRES), which is considered as one of the India’s largest national rural employment scheme received Rs 61,500 crore in the union budget 2020-21, which is 13 percent lower than the revised estimates of Rs 71,002 crore. The allocation has seen immense decline in the past years.

As per the department of rural development, MGNREGA division report of Karnataka, funds are allocated for special dispensation in drought, flood and any natural calamity. The central government will fund the entire cost of unskilled employment up to hundred days per household whereas the cost of employment over and above 100 days will be borne by the state government. So far, Karnataka has declared 45 Taluks in eight districts as flood affected areas and will provide employment to the affected families.

This scheme has attracted many manual and agricultural labourers as MNREGA unlike other social development schemes, is a demand-based scheme. Although mismanagement, public funds looting, inefficiency of authorities and legal administrators have always created hindrance in the path. Pending dues and wages, and turning workers away are few reasons why the target beneficiaries are not getting benefits. Despite having enough budget, the labourers’ payments are due which shows lack of interest on the part of State government.

Citing the problem, a panchayat member said, “The government can only bring and invest money in schemes, people for whom such schemes are designed should also show willingness. Many agricultural workers come to us in the month of January-March, when the production activities are low, otherwise workers and labourers are unwilling to attend training programmes as they fear they might lose their daily wages.”

In a bid to resolve the payment crisis, the centre has hiked labour wages under MGNREGA scheme by double digits to equip these labourers with better employment opportunities. Expanding the scope of this scheme the centre in March has announced a jumped from Rs 13 to Rs 34 in their daily wages. This move has come after a consequent demand for work under the scheme. Karnataka will see a Rs 26 hike in wages and the centre has also promised to clear all dues by April 10, 2020.

The allocation of funds under MGNREGA from 2016-2019

Due to the identity crisis and constant seasonal and circular migration, many of the migrant workers are denied the basic fundamental right to vote. The government struggles to identify these workers owing to the lack of survey done to keep a track of migrants’ population and hence, it impacts the policy framework for such vulnerable groups. 

Migrants of north Karnataka


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *