Kantabanji is an important railway station on the Vizianagaram-Raipur main line. These days it is teeming with lakhs of people. The town, in Bolangir district, has become the largest migrant labour market in Western Orissa.
Failing agriculture and shrinking forests have destroyed traditional livelihoods, forcing people from severe drought-hit areas in the western area of the state to take up hazardous jobs in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
Drought relief and poverty alleviation programmes, including NREGA, have failed to provide them alternative sources of income. The reasons are the same old ones: the maladministration, manipulation and malpractices of sundry middlemen, contractors and unscrupulous government officials.
The state government’s announcement of its intention to provide up to 200 person days work under NREGA, 50 more person days than the 150 the central government had raised to in drought-hit areas, didn’t help. NREGA mandates 100 person days of work.
Given the poor implementation, the distressed villagers...