Chhattisgarh labourers migrating south face squalor, slave-like conditions and Travels through the Hindi belt: As MGNREGA projects dry up

“ I don’t know where my son is, nor do I know when he’ll be coming home.” Son Singh, 58, didn’t seem worried. In fact, he was downright laid- back. Smoking a chillum on a platform outside his home in the remote village of Ichhapur in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar district, Singh merely shrugged. “My son migrates for work every year, and returns after a few months when he has made some money,” Singh added.

Chhattisgarh accounts for 7.5 percent of India’s tribal population. Thirty percent of its population is tribal. Of the 90 Assembly seats in the state, 29 are reserved for Schedule Tribes. Twelve of those fall in the division of Bastar, which comprises seven districts: Bastar, Kanker, Bijapur, Narayanpur, Dantewada, Kondagaon and Sukma. The region is beset by conflict between Naxals and security forces, which isn’t conducive to job creation.

In spite of a large Adivasi population, Chhattisgarh is one of the poorest performers in the implementation of Forest Rights Act, which would secure the livelihoods of lakhs of forest dwellers, most of whom live in Bastar. With lack of alternative sources of income and armed conflict looming large. Adivasis end up migrating to other states for work.

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