RAJPURA, India: There is a considerable fall in the migratory farm Labour to Punjab from U.P. and Bihar this year. Unlike previous years between one thousand and three thousand farm laborers from eastern U.P. and north Bihar used to arrive in Punjab every day. during wheat harvesting season, the numbers has come down to few hundred this year.

On Saturday when team of newsmen came here for on the spot assessment of the influx of migrant Labour it was surprised to find virtually an empty train. Kisan Express which runs between Varanasi to Ludhiana, normally carries laborers at its roof top.

A number of employees working at Rajpura railway station explained that up to the last week arrival of Bihari Labour to Punjab was normal compared to previous years but for the past few days Kisan Express is bringing only a handful of farm Labour. The number of migrant laborers into Punjab by other trains including Howrah Express was slightly higher than Kisan Express. The absence of an adequate migrant Labour force the majority of farmers in Punjab get their wheat crop harvested by combines. To harvest an acre of field the Combine harvester charges between Rs. 200 to Rs. 240 while the local farm Labour takes Rs. 170 per acre. Last year the rate for manual harvesting was Rs. 120 an acre. The local Labour prefers to be paid in kind. It takes 90 kg of wheat and Bhusa for its cattle besides its weekly supply of wheat at regular intervals. In case of harvesting by Combine the farmer does not salvage any wheat Bhusa. Farmers make up for manual Labour charges from the sale of wheat Bhusa alone. Some of the varieties sown in Punjab this year ripened 23 weeks in advance thus bringing down the yield per acre. A visit to the grain market at Rajpura, Khanna and a few other places revealed that one of the reasons for the decrease in yield has been failure of the grain to grow to its proper size. Farmers feel that the pesticide supply to them this year was adulterated and it did not show any impact on “Guli Danda” a major variety of wheat killing weed. The early ripening of the crop and unsure migrant Labour forced farmers to opt for Combine harvesters. Another reason for early maturing of crop is due to the change in the weather this season.

Article extracted from this publication >>  April 24, 1987