Migrant destinations are the underbelly of our economic growth and hold a mirror to any notion that this migration is ‘aspirational’ in nature.
The migrants of western Odisha are forced to leave their homes because of endemic poverty and lack of opportunities. Around the time of harvest of the paddy crop every year comes the festival of nuakhai , meaning eating new rice, around the beginning of September. At this time, poor families take an advance from labour contractors and then migrate to pay it through their labour.
Signs of change:
The village of Kathdungri in Muribahal block, Bolangir district, has 153 households of which, in 2011, 43 were distress migrants. Civil society and administration, working together, ensured MGNREGA works were planned and opened and wages were paid on time.
No one migrates from Kathdungri now. Water harvesting structures have recharged wells and enabled farmers to cultivate their hitherto uncultivable land, thus increasing their incomes. A mahabandha (large earthen dam) constructed in village Bhutungpada of Belpada block in 2012-13 was able to provide employment for more than half the year. Migration from the village has stopped. The dam will provide irrigation to 100 acres in the coming season.