Meetings Worth a While: Kripa & Kamlesh, Udaipur district, Rajasthan

As Simren goes around her project location trying to understand the underlying forces and issues, she finds rural migration to be a chronic problem. Here is an extract from her diary where she pens down her thoughts from a couple of such interactions.

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“I thought I would be able to earn some money by going out to work. My mother worked as a NREGA worker in the village but was not paid her due wages. I wanted to make up for the loss. I worked for a month and half on a BT cotton field in Gujarat. I don’t want to go back. I want to study. I dropped out of school and I want to rejoin it.” (Translated version)

Kripa is a twelve year old girl from Sagwada village, Udaipur District, Rajasthan. Having worked as a child migrant in Gujarat for a while, she’s back home now and wants to rejoin school. Her story depicts the plight of many other young children from the village who are forced to drop out of school and migrate to nearby towns and cities in search of work to be able to fend for their families. While her story is engulfed with some light of hope for she may actually be able to continue with her studies from next year, the decision that the young girl had to make speaks in magnitude the kind of life that the people of this village are conditioned to live. Lack of non-remunerative and unsustainable agricultural practices along with no other alternative means of livelihood available in the village make men and young children migrate to cities on large scale. There have been incidents in the past when families as a whole have migrated, leaving behind locked doors with silent walls and shuddering tales of economic misery and impoverishment.

Kamlesh, a child migrant from Sagwada village has been working in Ahmedabad for the past two years now. Having completed school till 7th standard, Kamlesh and his sister Sangeeta had to leave home for work to be able to feed a family of nine. Kamlesh earns about 250 rupees daily and lives in a rented room in the city, shared by ten other children like him. Having switched jobs a couple of times in the course of two years, Kamlesh now works as a borewell worker. Life hasn’t been a bed of roses for either him or many others of his age. One has to work overtime to be able to bear the expense of living in a city and simultaneously save a miniscule amount of money to send back home. Despite facing difficulties at work place in terms of coercion to work overtime or possessing no bargaining power against the contractor, Kamlesh has accepted his fate and will continue to work in the same manner. However, on being asked whether he would like to receive training for a more decent work he confided in with his approval.

(Kamlesh will be off to work after Diwali whereas his sister Sangeeta would now stay back to do household work. She is 15 years of age and has studied till class 7th).

The only way to make these young children opt out of migration is to help them build their capacities to be able to take up alternative livelihood practices, hopefully in their own village. Please share with us your ideas/suggestions of any such training/skill that could be imparted to them, something that is viable and sustainable.

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