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PM-GKRA: A Case Study of Beed

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Beed, like the other Marathwada districts in Maharashtra, is characterised by a constant water crisis-making agriculture, unfeasible especially for those who do not own large farmlands. Almost a third of the population migrates to the “sugar-belt” districts in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh during the sugar cane harvest period, to work as cane cutters. A “contractor,” called a mukkadam, hired by the sugar factory, works as a middleman in sourcing labour for cane cutting. This contractor hires one couple as one unit, paying them `250 per ton on average. This seasonal employment from October to March is often the only annual income for these cane cutters. Poverty, water scarcity, exploitation at the hands of the contractors and an alarming rate of farmer suicides has been the reality in Beed for a while now. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made things worse.

This district has seen the return of over 2.5 lakh migrant workers in the last few months, the highest in Maharashtra and significantly higher than the criteria set for the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan (PM-GKRA). The lockdown started in the end of March, which already marks the end of the seasonal employment that people from Beed receive in sugar cane cutting. In addition to the return of these seasonal migrants are the ones who left, in the past few years, for cities like Mumbai, Pune, Aurangabad in search of higher wages and a more permanent job. Both kinds of returning migrants now face a crippling lack of employment opportunities in their home district. Consequently, the demand for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) works is the highest it has been in the last decade.

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Updated On : 17th Aug, 2020

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