Gone are the days when they would follow Punjabi landlords seeking work to sustain their livelihood. The landlords, on their part, would allow them to plant saplings in their fields and offer them a few hundred rupees a day for their work.
Now, many labourers have now evolved as full-time workforce contractors, who charge money at their will to bring in labour to plant paddy.
The farmers, who can no longer toil in the fields, are dependent on the work hands arriving from UP and Bihar to carry out agricultural activities. To ensure that enough hands are procured in time for paddy plantation, farmers have started making beelines at the Rajpura Railway junction.
Kashmir Singh from Raongla village in Patiala district, who along with three of his sons were seen waiting along the railway tracks at the Rajpura station, said the paddy transplanting was scheduled to begin from June 20. They would have to bear the costs of food and shelter of the labourers for the next 13 days, he said. “However, we want to seize an early opportunity to hire labour. I know we will have to compensate them for non-work days too, but what else we can do,” he said.
Bikar Singh from Kasiana village said the labour contractors were dictating terms under which his men would work. “Kishan, the contractor, has made it clear that he will be charging Rs 2,550 per acre against Rs 2,200 that was paid last year. No one from my family will summon his men to do any other chore than transplanting paddy,” he said.
Jaspal Singh of Papala village near Rajpura said he had been coming to the station for the last three days but had been unable to hire any workers. Most of the labourers refused to work as they had already been hired by the contractors. “I have to get 40 acres covered under paddy, and there aren’t any local labourers who will tend to the fields in the scorching sun. Last year, I could not hire anyone from the station but later a local contractor arranged the workforce from an adjoining village. If these labourers refuse to plant paddy, Punjabi cultivators will have to give up on the crop,” he said.
Many farmers reach the Rajpura station in the wee hours when another train arrives here from Bihar at 3 am. Mahinder Singh from Uksi village said if they reach out to labourers at the station, they sometimes agree to plant paddy for Rs 2,100 to Rs 2,200 an acre. But if they hire workforce through the contractors, they have to shell out between Rs 2,400 to Rs 2,550 per acre.
Source: Times of India