Himansu Shekhar Rout

In the midst of the campaigning for the 2024 elections, the perennial issue of labour migration in Odisha is back in the news and has become the hot topic of political discourse, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi stoked the issue targeting Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

The PM while addressing a public meeting in Berhampur said that most people from Ganjam are migrating in search of jobs. He apparently weaponised the issue against the Biju Janata Dal (BJD).

Incidentally, the Kantabanji Assembly seat of Bolangir and the Hinjili seat of Ganjam, where the Chief Minister is contesting elections, are known as the hotspots of labour migration. 

Houses locked at Nuapalli

OTV hit the ground to check the reality at Nuapalli under the Khallikote area of Ganjam. Shockingly, most of the houses were found locked, except a few ones. It was learned that most of the people have locked their houses and gone outside the state in search of jobs. There are instances of migrants being harassed, tortured, killed and stranded outside the state.  

Recently a video appeared in which a group of people from Khallikote area was seen appealing to the administration for rescue. They were stuck in Saudi Arabia after the company failed to pay them their dues.

Sriharsa Das, a local resident of Khallikote said, "Migration is a major issue. People go to Surat, Mumbai and parts of Maharashtra and even abroad to get work, but many of them end up being harassed and tortured."
Local residents claimed that in the last five years, about 50 migrants from Khallikote died outside and their families received their bodies.

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Satrughna Das, an elderly of Nuapalli lamented, "We have no scope to earn our livelihood here. All have to go along with their families outside the state for jobs. Around 200 people of the village migrated. All houses are locked here.”  

Migration is more acute in Kantabanji and other parts of western Odisha. Scores of people from Turekela have locked their houses and gone out for jobs. 

No jobs in Odisha!

Budhabari Parabhuye, a woman of Turekela said, "All have migrated from here because there is no scope of earning. No industry is here. Had we had jobs here, why we should go outside?”

Fearing that the issue might put the party in trouble, the Biju Shramik Samukhya of the BJD recently held a district-level meeting at Kantabanji where senior party leader Subash Singh bluntly dismissed the issue, saying there is no such issue as migration in the state and people are going out in search of better earning opportunities.  Migration word is no longer relevant, Singh asserted.

'Government responsible'

However, Congress leader Santosh Singh Saluja said, "As work is not available under MGNREGA and there is no industry, people migrate outside. The government has admitted it in the Assembly in the past.”

BJP MLA candidate from the Kantabanji seat, Laxman Bag said, "Kantabanji has become a migration hub as the BJD government has neglected the area."

  • Reported by:
  • Ghateswar Mishra , Silu Biswal , Karunakar Budek , Antim Panigrahi