Raipur: There's a deathly silence in many villages across Chhattisgarh these days. The houses are locked as entire families have left for greener pastures for want of work, in spite of the central government's rural job scheme in place and availability of rice at Re.1 a kilo.
"We (55 labourers and 15 children) are leaving for Faizabad (in Uttar Pradesh) where we will make bricks. The payment is Rs.400 for 1,000 bricks. Two labourers can make 1,000 bricks in a day. We will come back after working for six months there," Kans Nishad of Baloda Bazar said at the Raipur railway station.
According to government statistics, 95,324 people have left their homes in the last three years. A substantial part of the migration - 29,190 - took place from Janjgir-Champa district. Inquiries by the IANS correspondent revealed that people living below the poverty line are not getting jobs in spite of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme (MNREGS) being operational in the state.
Chhattisgarh Revenue Minister Prem Prakash Pandey, in a written reply to Leader of Opposition T.S. Singhdeo's question in the state assembly, accepted the migration issue - but didn't have any solutions.
Apart from Janjgir-Champa, there are also reports of migration from Bemetara, Balod, Kawardha, Gariaband, Durg and Dhamtari districts, among others.
The migrants have moved to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh where they are engaged in the construction of houses, road and canals or they work in brick kilns.
Official records in Maoist-hit Sukma district show that no villager has been given employment under MNREGS in the last nine months. This apart, government officials working on the scheme say they have not been paid for the past 6 to 10 months. (Despite repeated attempts by IANS, officials declined to comment on the state of affairs.)
Ironically, neighbouring Dantewada district, which is also Maoist-affected, was given a national award earlier this year for its good performance under the scheme.
The statistics of the Baloda district are even more stark with some 500 labourers migrating every month.
Besides, the statistics show that 20,000 labourers have moved out of the Lavan area, leaving hundreds of houses in around 15 villages locked.
"The labourers have not derived any benefit in spite of the state's small size. That's why a large number of labourers are migrating to other states," Rajesh Mishra, general-secretary of NGO Gram Vikas Samiti, told IANS.
"The statistics of economic development are lying in cold storage, far away from the ground reality. That's why the people of Chhattisgarh are moving to far-off places. A major question that arises here is till when would this continue," Mishra said.