Let down by officials, villagers in Banda take to ‘shramdaan’ to revive canal to let them begin farming

Residents of Mausingh Ka Purwa village in UP’s Banda district, many of them migrant workers, are trying to revive a canal so that water could reach their villages for farming, spurning MGNREGA wages

NH Photo
NH Photo

NH Correspondent/Lucknow

Residents of Mausingh Ka Purwa village in UP’s Banda district, many of them migrant workers, have decided to pick up shovels to revive a canal so that water could reach their villages for farming, putting up a poster which reads: “This is not MGNREGA work but shramdaan(voluntary work)”.

The poster speaks volumes about the treachery of the local administration.

A fortnight back, the migrant workers, all of them residents of Bhanwarpur village in Banda district had revived a river called Dharar – a perennial river flowing through the village that had dried up and was filled with silt. Many check dams constructed on the river had also affected the water flow.

The migrant families revived the river so that water would be available for them to start farming in the coming season. They were without any employment and were facing a food crisis.

This inspirational story won headlines across the country following which UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath declared that this revival plan should be included in MGNREGA work and the people who worked for the revival of the river should be paid as per government norms.

The news brought cheers among the village. But their happiness was short lived as the local administration said the work was not done under MGNREGA, thus depriving the villagers of their rights. The villagers are now staging protests demanding their rightful wages as declared by the CM.

“I swear by Ma Ganga that we have worked to revive the river Dharar. If the SDM swears by Ma Ganga that we were not involved in digging and reviving the river, we will not ask for wages,” Ram Saran, a villager said.

Shocked by what happened in Bhanwarpur village, the 40 families of migrant workers are now playing safe and have started reviving the canal which they claim exists only on paper.

“This is not a government project but voluntary work the villagers have decided to do,” Jeet Ram, one of the villagers, said. “Hum shramdaan kar rahen hai taaki paani gaon tak pahunchey aur humey shahar na jaana padey (We are doing voluntary work so that water can reach our villages and we can stay back in our villages),” he said.

These are families who have returned from Maharashtra, Gujarat and Punjab during the lockdown to survive. They are not the beneficiaries of the much-hyped government claim of giving employment to migrant workers. They went to the gram pradhan for work but as they live away from the village, they do not have a job card and thus were not entitled for work.

After waiting for almost two months, these migrants came together to give life to a dry canal so that they can stay back in their village and do farming rather than returning to the cities in search of work.

The drought-prone Bundelkhand region saw many migrant populations coming back to their native places. Every year, almost 90 percent of the population of this region migrates to cities in search of employment. Those migrants who returned during the pandemic had expressed no intention of going back to the cities. They are rather determined to carry out farming in their village. However, being in the drought prone region, irrigating the lands became their biggest hurdle.

As per government records, there is a Guda Canal which connects Likha, Bilaki, Joginpurwa, Bijupurwa and Mausingh Ka Purwa but in reality it comes up only up to Joginpurwa and after that it is non-existent.

“The villagers are digging the canal to connect it from Joginpurwa to their village Mausingh Ka Purwa so that water can reach there and they can do farming,” Raja Bhaiya of Vidya Dham Samiti said.

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