Freebies for retaining Bihar migrant labourers



Ludhiana: Facing acute labour shortage mainly due to less influx of migrant labourers, particularly from Bihar, employers are doling out freebies like mobile phones and bicycles to lure workers.

Witnessing almost 30 percent labour shortage, nearly 5000 small and big manufacturers of bicycles and parts in Ludhiana, popularly known as the country's "bicycle capital", are facing threat of closure, traders said.

Some of the leading names in the bicycle manufacturing here include Hero, Avon and Rolex.

The ill-effect of the labour crisis is also felt on the farm sector as well as on textile manufacturing in the district.

MGNREGA was another factor pointed out for this.

"The labourers are also given mobile recharge coupons of Rs 50 to Rs 200 denominations to talk to their families," DS Chawla, former president of United Cycle and Parts Manufacturing Association, told a news agency.

A bicycle costing around Rs 2500 is given either free or for a paltry sum to these labourers so that they can paddle to their work place, PD Sharma, president of Chamber of Commerce and Industries (Punjab), said.

A survey has found that migration of labourers from Bihar in search of livelihood to places like Punjab and Delhi has declined by over 26 per cent, thanks to initiatives taken by the Nitish Kumar government in the past five years to check their exodus.

Flow of unskilled workers from Bihar to different parts of the country came down by 26.53 per cent in 2006-08 as compared to 2001-03, the survey, carried out by NGO Bihar Institute of Economic Studies, said.

The scenario is even more starker in the farm sector.

Facing acute shortage of hands particularly during sowing and harvesting seasons of wheat and paddy, farm owners have almost doubled the daily wage of labourers to Rs 300 as a special incentive, farmer Inderjit Singh said.

Chawla said earlier the migrants while going home used to request their employers to keep their jobs intact till they returns, but today the situation has changed.

Now many employers make a call to their homes and even deposit additional money in their bank accounts to motivate them to travel back to work here, Chawla added.

Queues of lorries and tractors outside railway stations to ferry migrant labourers used to be a common sight earlier, he said, adding they are not to be seen now.

Chawla said bicycle manufacturers had in the recent past met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Industries and Commerce Minister Anand Sharma to provide special fund for technology upgrade to help survive in limited supply of labours.

PTI