Dumka, Nov. 24: The Centre may have introduced the Panchayat Extension of Scheduled Areas Act (PESA) to ensure tribal empowerment and participation even in those areas where their presence is dismal, but large-scale migration of the tribal community in search of work has put a question mark on the government’s move to revive rural bodies.
Apparently indifferent towards the ongoing electoral process, many tribals have been leaving their villages in search of jobs, mostly in neighbouring Bengal. Most of the migrating labourers, egged on by middlemen, will work in paddy fields and will return only after the rural election.
“Working in Bengal along with my family for about a month will fetch me Rs 10,000 in cash. Besides, I’ll get two quintals of rice which will suffice for the next five to six months,” said Sonamuni Hembrom (40) of Kathikund village.
Hembrom was accompanied by her husband, brother-in-law, mother-in-law and three children who were all waiting for a Bengal-bound bus at a local bus stand today. When asked about the panchayat elections, she said that going to Bengal to work in paddy fields is what they have been doing for long, and there was no need to change now.
Subodh Besra (27) of Masalia too voiced similar sentiments. “Instead of going to Bengal if we stay back in the village to cast our votes for electing a mukhiya, we will lose Rs 2500,” said Besra, adding that his family is already Rs 5000 in debt. He had taken the money from the local mahajan for agricultural work.
He said because of the drought this year he has been left with no other option but to migrate to Bengal to minimise the burden of debt on his family comprising his ailing parents and wife.
When asked about MGNREGS, the expression of Bisu Tudu (35), another migrating labourer from the locality, said it all. “Two months ago, I worked in a road construction project under the scheme but have not received payment till now,” Tudu said, adding that he would be the last person to work under the scheme in future.
Due to the provision of reservation of posts in the rural bodies for ST candidates under PESA, the non-tribal community members are already least enthusiastic about the rural polls.
The resentment among non-tribals can be gauged from the fact that there has been large-scale boycott of the nomination process by community members for the unreserved posts.