The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Governor seeks report on Purulia poverty
Gopal Krishna Gandhi: Miffed'

Calcutta, Nov. 13: Alarmed at the poverty in Bengal's backward districts and growing migration of the rural poor to other places in search of work, governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi has sought a report from the government.

The governor, an official said today, would meet rural development and panchayat minister Surjya Kanta Mishra to discuss a preliminary report the government had sent to him in response to his expression of concern at the poverty and deprivation in Purulia and other backward districts.

'The situation is alarming,' said a government official. 'Something must be done immediately to put a stop to the migration to neighbouring states and districts like Hooghly, Birbhum and Burdwan in search of jobs. Gopal Gandhi will discuss the report with Mishra next week.'

On getting a slew of complaints from residents of Purulia about lack of opportunities and employment there, the governor had enquired from the government why at least two lakh people have to leave the district every year in search of livelihood.

The rural development department had sent the report to Raj Bhavan in response.

Rural development secretary M.N. Roy said the document 'explains the situation'.

He added: 'Migration cannot be termed evil if people migrate for better pay.'

The fact is, though large-scale migration is staring it in the face, the district administration has no clue about how many people are moving out in distress and how many, if any, are coming back.

The Purulia district magistrate's office said: 'No figures are available.'

In Calcutta, Roy said: 'Those who are migrating are doing so for more money, not because work is not available around them.'

About 40 per cent of Purulia's population of 25 lakh lives below the poverty line.

According to Roy, while the state government offers Rs 62 a day for work under its schemes, payment is higher in other places.

Working in brick kilns or farmland elsewhere, they can earn up to Rs 100 a day.

'No one can stop it (the migration),' Roy said.

He admitted that people migrate because no option is available to them. 'But that is happening only in pockets.'

The panchayat and rural development department had sought a report from Purulia district magistrate Mukul Sarkar explaining the causes of the migration.

There is more money and opportunities elsewhere, the report said.

The government wants to draw solace from the fact that many of those who leave Purulia return three-four months later, having earned the money they hope would last them the remaining year.

'There are many who have been traditionally going to other districts or Bihar and now Jharkhand in search of a living. Many of them return after a stint and go back again,' said a district official who did not want to be named.

'Many of these people are absolutely certain about the availability of work outside Purulia. The little that is on offer in the district is no temptation to them.'

hunger heartland

Population - 25,35,233
Below poverty line - 40 %
Agricultural labourer - 20.86 % (of population)
Other labourers - 38.6 %
Number of migrants every year: At least 200,000
Destination - Bihar,Jharkhand, Birbhum, Burdwan or Hooghly
Average income in Purulia - Rs 60 a day
Average income outside - Rs 80- Rs 100 a day
Below poverty line population across Bengal- 26 %

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