The dilemma of financial and sexual abuse faced by the Migrant Workforce
Table of Contents
As India moves towards the months full of hot waves and weather, India also faces a crisis that nobody sheds light on. Each year, a contractor (mukadam) just before Dusshera shows up at all houses in the districts of Bheed, Marathwada, and other dry areas in Maharashtra and offers loans to destitute families. He then goes on to pay them the loans and “book” them into a “contract,” which locks them in for several months.
The families then have to repay the contractors from the wages they will earn by “cutting sugarcane”, with 5% interest put up with the loan. Families all over from the dry areas of Maharashtra then migrate to western Maharashtra’s Sangli, Kolhapur, Pune, Satara, Solapur, and Ahmednagar —areas which are known as the sugar belt with the hope that, might meet with better fortunes.
It has been reported that every year about 12-15 lakh families migrate in the sugarcane season with the hope to change their fortunes, about 80,000 families also migrate even from Madhya Pradesh.
Each year, migrated families, work in the sugarcane fields, earning only about Rs, 50,000-60,000 for about 150 days of hard labour. They work daily for about 12-15 hours, earning only up to Rs 400-500 for those hours full of turmoil. The only option they have left, is to use up the entire money for the next six and seven months up until Dusshera comes up and another mukadam shows up at their house.
Once, the farmers are done harvesting sugarcane, the contractors take over. They bring in migrated families after the contractors are hired by Sugar factories. They make deals with tractor owners to transfer the cane from farms to factories. They are then paid by the factories, out of which they keep 30% of their monetary deals.
Thus, the price of table sugar is then paid by the ‘hidden workforce’ similarly, wherein in 17th Century America, sugarcane ushered and facilitated the slave trade, giving an impetus to the European Economy at that time.
Today’s date, India is the world’s top producer as well as a consumer of Sugar. It is the worlds second-largest exported as well. In a country where such repute is built on the blood and sweat of innocent families, the administration must make efforts to eradicate the financial and various forms of abuse faced by the migrated workforce all over India.
The plight of Women Laborers
Devappa Anna Shetti also known as Raju Shetti, from Kolhapur, is a farmers‘ rights activist, and also the former MP and president of Swabhimani Paksha, which is a regional political party. He has stated that women are even exploited sexually by contractors, sub-contractors, and even tractor drivers.
As the women fear a loss of employment, which can push them deep into their financial problems, women stay quiet and do not report such incidents. But such incidents are not the only reasons behind their plight, many women who belong to the fraternity of migrated workforce get a hysterectomy.
One woman from Bheed District reported that, many women who migrate to cut sugarcane, get the surgery done, as they do not wish to miss even one day of work, as they are fined if they miss even one day of work. That can cost up to a loss of about 500-1000 per day.
Despite such hardships for the migrated families, this season of life is a big opportunity for them. They leave behind everything, just to earn a meager amount in times when there is no source of income or opportunity in their own villages.