Jai Prasad Sah
Jai Prasad Sah is a busy man these days, distributing loans and advances to the hundreds of migrant workers who work for him. Sah sends hundreds of them every year to Ludhiana in Punjab, specifically to the Goyal rice mills. He worked there as a labour supervisor for 30 years and so understands the type of skills required at the mills. This lockdown has come as the biggest challenge in the last decade for poor migrant farm workers of north Bihar, admits Sah. I give them advance money and loans, otherwise they will simply perish.
The workers usually migrate in two tranches: in March-April and October-November. They work for the Goyal rice mills during the kharif season and for procurement activities in the rabi season for crops such as wheat, pulses, legumes and oilseeds. Some of the skilled workers make as much as Rs 1,000 per day in Ludhiana, says Sah.
Nirmali, a city on the banks of the turbulent Kosi river (known as the Sorrow of Bihar’), is built almost on the embankments. The river Kosi, which floods north Bihar almost every year, forms a funnel here along with another parallel river, the equally turbulent Kamala. The area sends the highest number of migrants all across the country. Nirmali’s fortunes began changing after the national highway linking Delhi to Guwahati came up close to the town. But now, it’s an endless wait again. For these people, migrating for work is the only way out as harvesting is totally mechanised in Bihar now, says Sah.