Uttar Pradesh may be headed towards starvation and then to slavery, feel experts
According to people working at the grassroots level in UP, due to influx of migrants, people have lost their bargaining power. In the process, hunger is stalking villages and revolt may be brewing up
Notwithstanding the hyperbole of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath that it will give employment to 90 lakh people, experts say that the large scale influx of these workers could lead to starvation and ultimately to slavery as these people would be forced to work for a pittance.
“With every passing day, the situation can turn alarming. Wait for a few days when the hunger will turn into starvation which will ultimately lead to slavery,” said Ajeet Singh, Director of Guria, an NGO that works towards elimination of human trafficking and modern day slavery.
The people who are working at the village level are alarmed at the continuous inflow of migrant workers. They have voiced concern that these workers are now losing their bargaining power. “These people are now working at much lower money than expected. They know if they deny what is being offered by the moneyed people, others will come and grab this work. This has reduced them to a slave-like situation where these workers are forced to expect whatever is offered to them,” Singh said.
RB Singh, a contractor, who shifted to a village in Ambedkar district during the lockdown, said that this time they got labour at a very cheap rate for harvesting. “There is an abundance of labour force in village because of return of labour from other states. This has made work easier for us this year,” he said.
On Sunday, CM Yogi Adityanath had announced that 90 lakh employment opportunities would be generated in UP as the government is expecting this much of labour force to return from states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab and Haryana. Officers have been asked to prepare a database of these workers like what work these people can do and link them up with the MSMEs.
People say that socio-economic changes have started emerging in rural Uttar Pradesh because of the influx; there are more mouths to feed than available food. The food given through PDS is less than the prescribed limit. There is not enough work too as these migrant workers do not have job cards and are denied work under MGNREGA.
“These are the signs of modern slavery. This helplessness can first lead to slavery and then to bonded labour like situation in the state, forcing a worker and his family to work for a pittance at the home or farm of a zamindar,” he said.
According to a 2016 estimate by the Global Slavery Index, there are 45.8 million individuals involved in some form of modern slavery. Out of these, more than 18 million people – the highest in the world – are living in conditions of modern slavery in India
Reports emanating from Banda say that a revolt like situation is building in the region which is famous for rugged land and dacoity. Raja Bhaiya, convener of Vidya Dham Samiti, says hunger stalks the villages. Some of them got government ration and some did not. A majority of them are relying on charity or support from the NGOs.
The days are not far when their anger will boil down on the streets and this will be a difficult situation for the government to control.