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Drought drives ryots out of Dharmapuri

By Our Staff Reporter

Dharmapuri Aug. 2. With the failure of rains and absence of perennial irrigation sources, drought conditions in Dharmapuri district have become a frequent phenomenon, forcing small and marginal farmers to `migrate' to nearby urban areas, especially to Bangalore.

According to a survey undertaken by the All-India Youth Federation, the problem is not confined to Dharmapuri district alone but to Vellore, Thirupathur, Thiruvannamalai, Villupuram and Cuddalore where inter-State migration prevails.

Migration was a lucrative process in 80s' when the development of Bangalore was in full swing with numerous construction works. Nearly 60 per cent of the farmers who migrated then were able to make some money and settle their debts. But in 90s', the situation had changed and migrants were fully exploited.

A migrant worker says "with farm work not easy to come by, there is little choice but to seek for work in neighbouring areas. Since most of us know only farming, the only work available for us is in construction sites where we could be sure of earning at least Rs.50 per day''.

The CPI, national council member, Deva Perinban, said "it is unfortunate that inspite of the Inter-State Migratory Workers Protection Act, nothing has been done to improve their cause. It is time, the Government undertook a survey and took steps to organise them. It is also necessary that a welfare board similar to the ones that exist for other workers is set up exclusively for them and that they should also be provided with some kind of an identification card''.

There have also been numerous instances of farmers from Dharmapuri district being rescued as bonded labourers from quarries in Andhra Pradesh. Recently, a batch of 11 families had escaped from a quarry in Chitoor district. Even construction workers in Bangalore and Mysore are treated to be more or less like bonded labourers since they are technically forced into dues and made to stay back until the money is recovered through their wages. Only during festivals like Deepavalli, Pongal and Adi Perukku would they be allowed to visit their villages and that too through a turn system.

However, many feel that until steps are taken to evolve some kind of dry land farming, the situation is not bound to improve.

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