Movement for worse

Tuesday 31 May 2011

The marginalised from Western Odisha who migrate out of the state lead difficult lives

Pradeep BaisakhBhubaneswar Bindhani has not heard of a UNDP Human Development Report Paper, ‘Migration and Human Development’. It is quite likely the authors of the 2009 report did not take note of the fortunes of this resident of Nuagaon village in Odisha’s Nuapada district when they wrote, “migration fosters development of the migrant people.” They also perhaps did not take note of many other people from Odisha’s western districts who migrate every year to work in sub-human conditions at brick kilns and construction sites in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

In 2010, eight members of Bindhani’s family sought work in different parts of Andhra Pradesh to return a loan of Rs 27,000. Non-profit ActionAid’s statistics show 200,000 people migrated from the western districts of Odisha to work in the brick kilns of Andhra Pradesh. Data compiled by another non-profit, Migration Information and Resource Centre (MIRC), shows 150,000 people migrated from Balangir district in 2009-2010. According to this non-profit, most migrants are landless or small or marginal farmers, and belong to the Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste communities.

The condition of the migrant workers of this area is well encapsulated by the Inter-state Migrant Workmen’s (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Act, 1979. The Act’s preamble reads, “At the time of recruitment, sardars or khatadars promise that wages calculated in piece-rate basis would be settled every month, but usually this promise is never kept. Once the worker comes under the clutches of a contractor, he takes him to a far-off place on payment of railway fare. No working hours are fixed for these workers.”

Miriki Tandi of Balangir district, who worked at a brick kiln in Andhra Pradesh’s Nalgonda district, told this writer that brick kiln workers labour for 18 hours a day throughout the season (October/November to May/June) for a weekly allowance of Rs 300. A typical labour unit constitutes two adult members and a child. This unit is supposed to make 150,000 to 200,000 bricks in seven months. The families usually eat broken rice (chicken fodder) with dal and sometimes a little curry. “A good meal at a brick kiln is a dream for us,” lamented Tandi.

An MIRC study notes that more than 80 per cent of migrant children work with their parents. The study also notes that 10 per cent of the total migrants are in the age group of 6-14, who lose education for seven months in a year. It points out that 49 per cent of such children go to schools when they are not labouring in other states; the rest are either dropouts or never enrolled in the school due to uninterrupted migration. In the destination areas only a handful of children get education in schools run by NGOs.

Very often, the workers are tortured by employers. In April 2010, newspapers in Odisha reported the death of a migrant worker from Balangir, Rupadhar Bariha. Kept as a bonded labourer along with his family at a brick kiln in Nalgonda district, Bariha was beaten to death by kiln owner Jagan Seth. Last year, the Balangir administration had to rescue people from the district working as bonded labourers in brick kilns in Andhra Pradesh’s Ranga Reddy district. Most brick kilns in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh as well as in parts of Odisha are not registered under company laws and are rarely monitored by labour departments.

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme could have helped the migrants. But the scheme has not really worked well in Odisha. In Balangir, for example, 61,000 of the 245,000 job card holders were covered under the scheme in 2009-2010. These job card holders have got an average of 43 days of employment, as per official figures. In Nuapada district only 18 per cent of the job cards (108,000) got an average of 27 days of employment in 2009-2010.

The author is a freelance journalist based in Bhubaneswar. He can be contacted at


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  • A very valid argument Pradeep

    A very valid argument Pradeep and very well-substantiated. thank you for sharing.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • Very lucidly written article,

    Very lucidly written article, brings out the insights on the topic through cases picked from the ground. I agree that the UNDP report has failed to take into account the conditions of the people who are actually affected by migration. The author could have elaborated a little on the exact data used by the UNDP report and the basis on which they have arrived at such conclusions. Otherwise, the article is very crisp and clear.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • very good observations

    very good observations Pradeep and put up in clear manner! thanks for sharing!

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • Very well delineated

    Very well delineated Pradeepjee, we in India and of course Orissa, usually think after the damage is already done. Massive government schemes like MNREGA are perhaps not yeilding proper results in the most needy areas of the country, the rate of migration has not visibly come down after implementation of such income generating programs. Do you see any apparent reason for those poor people being scapegoat to the unscrupulous middlemen? we should think in the lines of nipping the bud at once.


    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • Yes, Migration leads (DTE,

    Yes, Migration leads (DTE, 15-31 May 2011)to worsen their situation with vulnerability. This is worst for the people with out education or skills. While migrating the people will look only towards the revenue opportunities and not towards the services / facilities / needs for which they have to pay.

    At their own place, the payment toward shelter, water, fuel and other basic needs is either nil or very less and only pay for the food grains and other needs like health and education.

    Once they migrate to other place particularly to cities, they need to pay heavily for everything with much difficulty. This reality burns their hopes, needs and opportunities.

    These re the key issues one need to think before looking for migration for vision with illusion. Suggestion is that balance the SWOT analysis of existing and hoping environment.

    N Lakshmi Narayana

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • It is the duty of a citizen

    It is the duty of a citizen in a free country not to fit into society but to MAKE SOCIETY . . .
    Is this society only for us ?
    They said food/cloth/house are the basic needs then what about the statement made by the migrants -"A GOOD MEAL AT A BRICK KILN IS A DREAM FOR US"
    SHEER IRONY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    about the article - it is a qualitative as well quantitative with all details and reports.
    Issues like this need to be raised and brought onto the platter of central government.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
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