Seasonal unemployment hits <i>char</i> labourers
Most of the day labourers in 90 char (landmass emerged from riverbed) villages of Teesta and Dharla river basin areas in the district are passing hard days due to seasonal unemployment and consequent monga, a near famine situation affecting the region almost every year during this time.
Taking the opportunity, local money lenders are giving loan to the hard-pressed farm labourers at high interest rates while many workers are selling their labour 'in advance' to the farm owners on condition that the money will be adjusted when the labourers get employed during the harvesting period.
But the arrangement of 'advance payment' costs a lot to the farm workers as the wages in such cases are fixed much lower the usual rates.
A good number of people have gone to town areas in search of work.
The situation, which turns serious in absence of any government initiative to create employment for the char people during this time, will continue until boro harvest starts early June, locals said.
"Since the first week of April, I have remained unemployed although I go out regularly in search of work. I don't see any hope till boro harvest starts,” said Monsur Ali, 55, a day labourer at Char Gobordhon village in Aditmari upazila.
Mozibor Rahman, 42, of the same village, said, "Due to hardship, I have already sold my labour in advance to a local farm owner for Tk 110 a day whereas we earn Tk 180 to 250 per day by working in the farm during the job period.”
"I have borrowed Tk 1,000 from a money lender at my village in mid-April on condition of repaying it with interest of Tk 400 after two months. As I am jobless now, I had no other way to feed my family,” Azibor Rahman, 50, a day labourer at char Bowalmari village of Lalmonirhat Sadar upazila, said.
Shahabuddin Ahmed, 60, who cultivated paddy and other crops on his 20 bighas of land at Kalmati Char village in Lalmonirhat Sadar, said there is no need to employ labourers during this time and so, farm labourers become unemployed.
As this correspondent talked to Unus Bapari, 45, a money lender at Char Milonbazar in Sadar upazila, he claimed that he helps many jobless people through lending money for 'a little interest' during this period.
"Many jobless people with their family members would face starvation if I do not help them," he said in a tone of complacency.
Lalmonirhat Sadar upazila Chairman Nazrul Haque Patwary said 40 to 45 days before the boro harvest every year, farm labourers in char areas become jobless and face monga, a near famine situation.
He insisted providing job facilities by the government to mitigate sufferings of the char people.
Admitting the unemployment problem faced by the farm labourers at Teesta and Dharla rivers basin areas during this period, Lalmonirhat District Relief and Rehabilitation Officer Anwarul Islam said, "Many people from char areas have gone to different towns in search of work. However, the problem is a temporary one. People will get work when harvesting of boro paddy starts."
The government has no special initiative to provide employment opportunity for the jobless people in the char areas of the district this time, he said.