At a time when migrant labour have not shown up for kharif operations, farmers themselves have taken up the role of workers along with their families in order to save their crops. Many of them have preferred direct sowing of paddy in order to escape the burden of labour-intensive transplantation.
During the monsoon season, labourers from Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and other States and those from Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts come to Krishna, Guntur, West Godavari and East Godavari districts to take part in agricultural work. However, in view of the COVID-19 threat and absence of proper transportation they have stayed put in their native places now.
We used to bring labourers from Khammam, Kothagudem-Bhadradri, Nalgonda, Warangal and other districts of Telangana. But due to restrictions on inter-State movement and poor transportation facilities labourers are not coming for work, laments a farmer G. Someswara Rao of Nuzvid. A paddy farmer Kunche Raghava Rao of Eluru also complains of a similar situation, saying they used to get thousands of workers from Vizianagaram district for paddy transplantation work in West Godavari.
Not all farmers can afford to lease paddy transplantors. After sowing, we need some workers to water the crop, remove weed and spray fertilizers and pesticides, farmers say.
I, my wife and son have been doing sowing work along with two local workers for a week in my one and a half acre paddy field. We are forced to pay 700 per day to each worker, bemoans Setti Babji of Koyyalagudem.
Work burden eased
Direct sowing has come to the rescue of paddy cultivators this season. By July 31, 55,000 hectares has been covered under direct sowing in East Godavari district as against the targeted 70,000 hectares, says Joint Director (Agriculture) K.V.S. Prasad.
District Deputy Director of Agriculture S. Madhava Rao says, "The scarcity of workers has been met by adopting direct sowing. The arrival of irrigation water by mid-June and timely rains have resulted in speeding up of the drive."