Migrants Gone, Farm Owners And Local Workers Fight Over Wages In Punjab

While the farm owners claim that the local labourers are taking advantage of the situation, the labourers say their wages were already very less.

The situation has led to a standoff between the labour associations and farm owners.

Chandigarh:

The mass exodus of migrant labourers from Punjab has led to a major challenge for the farm owners - dependency on local labourers in the paddy sowing season and demands of higher wages.

The situation has led to a standoff between the labour associations and farm owners in the state.

While the farm owners claim that the local labourers are taking advantage of the situation, the labourers say their wages were already very less.

If the farm owners are to be believed, migrant labourers charge Rs 3000 - Rs 4000 for sowing per acre of paddy, while the local labourers are demanding Rs 7000- Rs 9000 per acre.

Many panchayats in the state have passed a resolution to fix wages for labourers and stop their movement to other villages.

"Farmers are facing losses in the previous season's produce. now with migrant labourers gone, there is labour shortage. migrants were more efficient and charged lower wages," Sandeep Singh, a Panchayat member, in Mansa district's Ralla village said.

"Local labourers are demanding somewhere between 7000-9000. hence we passed a resolution through Gram Sabha and fixed their wages at 3000 with refreshment," he added.

Such resolutions by the Panchayat members have led to protests by the labour union in the state.

Niami Singh, who works in the field, says that the new resolution by the panchayat is unjust.

"I have been working as a farm labourer for the last 30 years. In absence of migrant labourers we felt that our earning could improve but fixing our wages is very unfortunate. I have a family of six and 3000 per acre is not sufficient," Niami Singh told NDTV.

However, the officials claim that administration is not aware of any such resolution.

State's Rural development department director DPS Kharbanda said that action will be taken they receive any complaint on the matter.

"Every Indian is equal and should not be discriminated when it comes to wages. We will cancel such resolutions if it is brought to our notice," said Mr Kharbanda.

"In the last two months we have seen how during this pandemic farmers and labourers have been at the receiving end either due to hunger or adverse situation. But such conflicts must be checked to ensure that it doesn't disturb the social fabric in the rural areas," he added.