26, May 2021 | Mamta Pared
Ambadi is a small town in Bhiwandi taluka. As it is a centrally located area, many people from the Jawahar and Mokhada talukas of Palghar district migrate, often on foot, to this place in search of work. They belong to the Thakur, Warli, Katkari communities and travel in family groups. However, once they reach, the only option is to ‘settle down’ near the roadside in makeshift ‘hutments’.
During the day they seek work as labourers, leave their huts and go to work. So, I decided to go meet them in the evening once they all return home.
The day I reached there I saw that one of the employers had just brought them back to this ‘camp’ after the day’s work was over. These laborers keep a look out for such employers who will come to this place and take them as daily wagers to do construction work or for farming work, and after finishing the work, drop them back at the same place. This saves them time and money in commuting and they can often stick together as a group, an added safety measure.
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Each labourer carries the things they need, tied in a cloth bundle. The families carried larger versions of these bundles with them during migration. As in the village, the women of the family are in charge of the cooking, the only difference here was that they were lighting their ‘mitti chulha’ or clay stoves in the open. Their kitchen had the sky for a roof! Some others were cleaning the dishes by the roadside, while others were carrying water in a plastic drum from a common tap a distance away. The children, oblivious to the tough life, were being themselves, playing nearby while their elder siblings kept a watch. Remember this is a roadside after all.
The men were standing around the ‘boss’ who was still standing there with the car, there seemed to be some negotiations going on. I was curious and inquired; apparently a fresh deal was being negotiated between a migrant named Prakash Taral (35) who was going to work with the boss once again at the same place. The employer’s family was going to the village for a festival, so Taral was asked to work for a few more days and had to leave right away. “The boss is waiting, I need to go,” said Prakash and approached the owner’s car, only to return his mobile phone. “Please note the boss’s number in your notebook,” he said and left, waving and saying goodbye to everyone.
Taral, a resident of Nehala (Sulyacha Pada) in Jawahar, had migrated with his wife Vanita (28), son Srinath who studies in class five and one and a half year old son Bhavesh who is also sent to the Anganwadi.
I asked Taral, “Your child’s education is at stake. So why do you migrate?” He smiled and said “We don’t have any option because there is no work in the village so you have to migrate for money. When schools were open, we were keeping the child at home with my elderly parents. Now that the school is closed due to the Lockdown, my son has come along with us.” He said that this migration has in fact been going on for the last 10 years.
I also met Lahanya Digha (40) who also migrated with his wife Dhari Digha (35) and his sons Satish (20) and Sachin (16). Satish left school a few years ago, whereas Sachin was studying in class nine. The younger one was living alone at home when his parents migrated. He would have to walk for an hour to reach the nearest Ashram school. Lahanya said that there is no bus service to his village. “Sachin has dropped out of school since the lockdown and now he too has started working with us,” said the father, adding that he, his wife and elder son each earn Rs 350 while Sachin gets Rs 320 when working as a daily wager.
Everyone who has migrated here has the same story. Young girls and boys have to live in the open. When it is dark, they go to a nearby river and take a bath. Some people here have mobile phones but have to pay for charging them. The worst part is because they stay away from their homes, they are deprived of the food they can get on their ration cards registered in their villages. Now, they do not even know what development is taking place back in their village, as they move out once the monsoon ends, only to return a year later. A lot changes in a year, but for them the hardships continue.
This report is part of CJP’s Grassroots Fellowship Program, and has been written by Mamta Pared who hails from the Warli tribe and lives with her family in Nimbavali village in Palghar district. Here she showcases how lack of development in villages forces families to migrate and live by the roadside.
Meet Mamta Pared
Mamta Pared is a young Adivasi woman hailing from the Warli community. She lives with her family in Nimbavali village in Palghar district. Her mother is unlettered, while her father was educated up to the fourth standard. After they got married, her parents started working together at a brick kiln. Every year, their family used to migrate for employment and live near brick kilns, six out of twelve months. There are five siblings, the youngest was born when Mamta was five years old. As the eldest daughter in the family, she was responsible for caring for her siblings, and also helped with household chores. She had to skip school frequently and stay home to take care of her brothers. But she studied hard, passed scholarship exams, stayed in a government hostel, even borrowed money to pay college fees. Mamta eventually earned a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Media. She wants to be a journalist, and later become a professor in a college. She is working on earning a Master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Abasaheb Garware College in Pune.