Even under the threat of infection of Coronavirus, nearly 2,000 farm labourers of various char villages of Bagha Upazila are visiting various surrounding districts in search of job by procuring permission from the Upazila administration and Upazila Agriculture Officer of Bagha.
According to sources, Boro paddy has been ripened in the fields of various villages of Natore, Naogaon, Joypurhat, Pabna and Sirjganj districts. Harvesting of those paddy will be started within next one week.
Though there is no shortages of farm labourers in Rajshahi district, the neigbouring districts face an acute shortage of farm labourers during the harvesting season of paddy every year. Moreover, farm labourers at Char villages of Bagha are now spending an idle time because of absence of any work in the field.
Though Boro paddy is also cultivated in Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj districts, the labour shortage during the harvesting time is not felt acutely since a large part of the land of the districts is used for cultivation of mango, litchi and vegetables. As a result, farm labourers of the district, specially of char villages, are spending idle time at their houses. Most of their savings have already been spent and the Coronavirus threat is forcing them to stay home.
Many of the farmers are also drawing loans from local money lenders at a high-interest rate. Under such a situation, those farm labourers were running for works outside the district even during the lockdown by procuring permission from the Upazila administration and the agriculture officer.
It is learnt, already harvesting of some advanced variety of paddy has been started in some area. Paddy farmers of those regions used to hire farm labourers from various Char villages of Bagha, Paba and Godagari upazilas every year. This year, even after the lockdown, hundreds of farm labourers were now rushing to those regions by hiring trucks, three-wheelers and shallow-engine driven Bhutbhuti in search ob jobs.
It is learnt, nearly 2,000 farm labourers have so far gone to the neighbouring districts during last one week. Farm labourers Samrat Ali, Rezaul Karim, Mokhlesur, Rahmat Ali Alamin and Altaf of Chhatari village under Bagha upazila informed, they would go to Singa area of Natore district to harvest paddy by procuring permission from upazila administration and the agriculture officer of Bagha.
They said, they have no work at their area now. Moreover, it is banned to go out of the house due to Coronavirus threat. But, even under such situation, they were going to harvest paddy outside of the district by risking their lives. Local Member of Parliament and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam has ordered the local administration to consider the cause of the unemployed farm labourers.
Moreover, due to absence of farm labourers, paddy of large areas would just fall and destroy. That is why they were visiting the local administration to procure a permission so that they can go to those paddy growing regions by hiring Bhutbhtis and harvest paddy there. They said, a 40-member team of the labourers would like to go there tomorrow and after cutting and thrashing of the paddy, they would return to their villages again.
Due to closure of movement of buses, trucks and trains, they are being forced to travel on the Bhutbhuris, they added. Shafiullah Sultan, Bagha Upazila Agriculture Officer informed, already nearly 2,00 farm labourers have procured permission from him and the UNO and many of them have left the upazila in groups to the paddy harvesting regions. Shahin Reza, Bagha Upazila Nirbahi Officer informed, the paddy harvest labourers are being assisted in all ways. He warned them all to maintain social distance and wash their hands, mouths with soaps frequently and to drink more water.