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Lack of income source forces AP’s villagers to migrate to farther cities

Unable to earn from his farms or find another decent source of income, Chinna Eeranna, along with his wife and teenage sons, is headed for the chilli plantations of Guntur district. Working there as farmhands, he says, is a better bet than staying in Jampapuram village in Kosigi mandal of Kurnool district.
 
They are among the estimated 50,000 people from western Kurnool who have migrated in search of jobs this year. "Even if all four of us work here, we hardly earn Rs. 400 a day. But in cities such as Guntur, Hyderabad and Bengaluru, we make about Rs. 800 each — a combined earning of Rs. 3,200 per day," Eeranna says, while setting out for Sattenapalli in Guntur district.
 
The number of migrations from the region spikes after Pongal each year, and some people, like Naga Jyothi, of Agasanauru, even have to take their school-going children along. "We have no other option as there’s nobody at home to take care of them. If there were jobs here that paid well enough, why should we leave every year?" the mother of two asks as she boards a mini-van to Narasaraopet in Guntur. Her daughter is in Class II and her son is four-year-old.
 
The migration routine is nothing new to small and marginal farmers. An unofficial estimate pegs the number of people who already left at 50,000, and by the end of February, this figure is likely to see a three-fold rise. Since farm work is seasonal, many of these people take up jobs out of town as construction labourers, and return home by June to cultivate their fields.
 
However, the dearth of jobs isn’t the only reason for people turning migrants. The ever-rising cost of living is also to blame. Meanwhile, the meagre wages and lack of alternative work under the MGNREGS make matters worse.
 
Irregular payment of wages under the scheme, intended to arrest migration, further detracts locals from considering it as a viable option during lean period.
 
Under the scheme, only 100 days' work is provided, with a maximum pay of Rs. 211 per day, and the availability of work is not guaranteed. Further, not every member of a family is allowed to work. Though the number of days of work was recently increased to 150, the various stipulations and eligibility criteria hinder locals from taking up jobs under the scheme.
 
According to APREGS implementation committee member Satram Ramakrishna, there are nine lakh MGNREGS job card holders in Kurnool, but only about 2.6 lakh are availing the scheme. “We provide a summer allowance and supply drinking water and buttermilk, but the daily wage - ranging from Rs.100-160 – and irregular pay are the main drawbacks,” he said.
 
Meanwhile, District Water Management Agency (DWMA) project director Venkata Subbaiah said they are ready to provide jobs under the MGNREGS, but some of the villagers are unwilling to work for just Rs. 150 to Rs. 200 per day.
 
He added that efforts are being made to reduce the number of migrations from the district. As for those who are heading out of town for work, their demands are sufficient water in their fields, and jobs in the region or nearby towns. Then, they say, the bus stands and railway stations won’t be filled with migrant labourers.
 

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