Sudhir Mishra | Balangir
Thirteen migrant workers and their six children, including a 10-day-old baby, of the district, kept in captivity in a brick kiln in Ranga Reddy district of neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, were rescued on Sunday by Hyderabad-based ‘Aide at Action’ activists Sreedhar Reddy and Santosh Rao.
Both visited the brick kiln based in Kandukur mandal of the district and persuaded the kiln owner to release the people.
The migrants being held hostage was first reported by The Pioneer on June 16.
In January this year, 27 adults and some children of Bahiaudar village under Muribahal
block in the district were taken by the labour agent Manoj Patra to work in Biram Patna area of Ranga Reddy district in Andhra Pradesh.
They were allegedly forced to work for 16 hours a day, ill-treated when unable to work, harassed both physically and mentally and scolded by the kiln owner Mastanajah and his supervisor Ranjeet.
Unable to bear the torture, the villagers found no option but to clandestinely flee the place in March 2010, the post-Holi day.
However, Nilakantha Bhattaguria (55) got caught while escaping and was allegedly beaten by the kiln owner’s goons following which his legs were broken. Two women were kept in captivity for two days and allegedly harassed in several ways.
Rabikanta Biswal and others, who managed to escape the place and reach home, lodged a complaint with the District Labour Officer (DLO) and the Tikarpada PS.
Local NGO Jana Mukti Anushtan (JMA)’s Bhajaram Sahu helped the people to approach
DLO Bhoi contacted the brick kiln owner and the middlemen Patra, but to no avail.
After the news was published in The Pioneer, it was immediately referred to Aide at Action Hyderabad office and they started locating the sites.
In the meantime, Umi Daniel of Migration Information and Resource Centre (MiRC), Aide at Action, Bhubaneswar, contacted the Hyderabad office and asked them to take suitable action for the release of the captive labourers.
Social activist Sanjay Mishra took up the issue before the Collector Sailendra Narayan Dey who assured him to take appropriate steps.
Apart from Muribahal, some people from Belpada block were also rescued.
All the rescued 19 migrant labourers boarded the Janmabhumi Express from Hyderabad and have arrived Balangir.
Sudhir Mishra | Balangir
Launched with an avowed purpose of improving livelihood of the poor by providing jobs at their door steps and to check distressed migration, the flagship project Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) of the UPA Government seems to have floundered here going by the observation of Union Rural Development Ministry-constituted Eminent Citizen Committee member Kamal Kumar.
“Only 25 per cent demanded jobs under the MGNREGA in Balangir and the payment delay is common,” observed Kumar.
The Union Rural Development Ministry has constituted a 61-member Eminent Citizen Committee to study and assess the implementation of the MGNREGA in India.
The Eminent Citizen Committee is an effort by the Centre to bring improvements in the system by independent monitoring and taking various walks of people from the judiciary, bureaucracy, academics, scientific research, army and personnel from other sectors in the committee.
“Out of the 2,40,000 registered job card holders in the district here, only 60,000 have demanded jobs,” Kamal Kumar told the mediapersons here on Saturday after visiting several projects and interacting with several villagers in nine blocks of the district.
The rest 1,80,000 job card holders have not demanded jobs due to lack of awareness and not to be of their choice.
A large number of people are migrating and the people should be given vocational training, he said further. More awareness is to be developed, Kumar observed.
Even as the MNREGA clearly says that payment should be made within 15 days, actually payments are made invariably after 45-75days.
This is mainly due to shortage of administrative and engineering staff. A total of five Block Development Officer (BDO) posts and 13 junior engineer posts are also lying vacant following which the major delays in payment are being caused.
The claim of the MGNREGA that it has reduced distressed migration evoked sharp reaction from the mediapersons and they wanted to know what action has been taken on the gross irregularities in the work at Dabkani village in Patnagarh block, Jatropha plantation of Rs 2,50,000 inside the jungle, and many other scams involving the district level officials.
“I would like to draw the attention to the likely conflict between the Government of India and Government of Odisha,” Kumar viewed, elaborating the minimum wage has been fixed at Rs 90 while those doing earth work should be paid Rs 145.
It would create problem as the MIS does not support entry of Rs 90 and not more.
The rest amount would have to be carried out further. It might end consuming the allotted days.
The Government of Odisha should reconsider its decision of 30 per cent royalty for road works under the MGNREGA as this is affecting quality of assets, he pointed out.
“I would request the Government to increase the 100 days of household work to 200 days of individual work for the benefits of the rural populace,” Kumar said further.
There is an extreme need to improve documentation and better monitoring by the Line departments to get the desired benefits reaching the people, he added.
Sudhir Mishra | Balangir
The delay in the onset of monsoon may spell doom on the cotton crop cultivation in the district here.
The cotton crop, dubbed as white gold and promoted as an alternative cash crop after paddy in a bid to improve the economic condition of the farmers in the district here, is always in the headlines for its distress sale, farmer’s suicide for crop failure and delay in cultivation.
The cotton cultivation in Balangir district is yet to take up due to the delay in the arrival of monsoon.
According to sources, against the normal rainfall of 202.8 mm in June, an abysmal 26.11 mm has been recorded so far.
The white gold is grown mostly in Patnagarh, Belpada, Khaprakhol, Muribahal, Bongomunda and some other areas of the district.
This year, the cotton crop has been targeted to take up in 24,000 hectares of the district, informed an agriculture official here.
We are promoting the cultivation of those cotton seeds whose staple length is more than 30 mm and mostly SriTulsi, Bhaskar, Bani, Super Bani and Gabar variety seeds are cultivated here, said the official.
Rather than going for the banned Bt cotton, we are advising the farmers to go for approved variety cotton seeds and adopt the integrated pest management to get more production besides saving the ecology, he further said.
In our eco system, besides the harmful insects, there are also beneficial insects.
Spraying of pesticides, insecticides kills the eco-friendly insects first and then the harmful ones.
The Bt cotton is a risky investment in the absence of assured irrigations. Cultivation of Bt cotton also requires heavy use of fertiliser, insecticides, besides the high cost of its seed.
By adopting integrated pest management, the farmers of the district could get good returns, the official pointed out.
Cotton, which is a 150-day duration crop, is supposed to be sown by June 15.
At the worst case, it should be over by the end of June or at best in the first week of July. Beyond the scheduled period, the cotton crop would give less yield and farmers are likely to switch over to other crops.
Due to the delayed monsoon, the cotton cultivation, targeted to be taken up in 22,000 hectares, could be taken up in 19,000 hectares instead in 2009.
“This year, we are still awaited for a good rain so that its cultivation would take up,” the agriculture official stated.