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Displaced by drought: The many tales of migrants looking for water and work in big cities

Displaced by drought: The many tales of migrants looking for water and work in big cities

From various part of the country like Bundelkhand , Delhi, Marathwada, Mumbai, from Raichur to Bengaluru – residents of rural India are being driven out of their homes and into the big cities by drought. It’s a movement of people that’s being going on for about a year now, brought on my consecutive failures of the rain that’s left farm lands barren and little work agricultural work in drought-hit districts.

In October last year, Scroll reporters met farmers looking for work as daily labourers in Pune. They were among thousands who had left Marathwada and Vidarbha because poor rains had led to crop failures that left them with no means of income through agriculture. Even back then, the migrants were finding it hard to find work in the cities. At that time, the farmers were finding it hard to find work at factories or in construction in Pune. The jobs had already been taken by those who had arrived in the city before them.

Annual migration from dryland areas in Bundelkhand, interior Maharashtra and north interior Karnataka are common. Farmers leave their water stressed land for the summer months to find work in the cities and return to their fields with the advent of the rains. But the flow of people into cities has turned into a veritable flood this summer, as delays in the government’s rural employment scheme has resulted in failure to provide work and incomes to the rural poor. About 68% of the country’s population lives in rural areas, 15% of GDP comes from agriculture but one-third of the country has been affected by this drought.

The many risks for migrants

In early April, CNN-IBN reported that at least 18 lakh people had moved from Bundelkhand into Delhi in the past year and, as is the only resort for most distress migrants, are living in slums next to construction sites in the city. In Mumbai, the number of people living under flyovers and sleeping outside train stations has grown this summer. In addition to looking for work and worrying about their children who are no longer in school, migrants face the risk of being trafficked, social activists pointout.

In Mumbai, the influx of distress migrants has been dramatic enough for city corporators to demand aid from the municipal corporation to provide them shelter, food and jobs. The Mumbai police have already pressed to helping 250 of Ghatkopar’s new residents out of scuffles with its old ones over water tanker supplies. The big available workforce is, however, helping Mumbai prepare for the monsoons. The corporation has shifted the responsibility of unclogging the city’s drains from private contractors to the municipal wards. The wards have outsourced the work to NGOs which are tapping into this huge pool of employable people who have entered the city.

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