Explained: Migrants in Punjab and why do they matter?

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Punjab CM Charanjit Channi’s recent remarks over migrants have triggered a major row close to the elections. With all rivals gunning for him, Raakhi Jagga explains when the migrants started arriving in large numbers in Punjab and why do matter to politicians in the state.

When did this influx of migrants start in Punjab?

The trend began in the early 1970s as the Green Revolution took root. Initially, migrants came to rural areas for paddy sowing and later they also started working in factories. A survey was conducted by parvasi wing of the SAD-BJP government in 2016 and the estimated population of migrants at that time was 39 lakh. Over the years, this has increased to nearly 43 lakh, revealed Ram Chander Yadav, president of the parvasi wing of the SAD. Yadav was parvasi wing chief when the survey was conducted in 2016.

How is the migrant population distributed in Punjab?

In Punjab, the maximum migrant population is in Ludhiana followed by Jalandhar, Amritsar, Mohali, Bathinda, Phagwara and Hoshiarpur.

In 2020, during the Covid lockdown when people started going back to their hometowns, sharmik trains rolled out of the state and 18 lakh had registered with the Punjab government to go back to their native states. Out of these, nearly 10 lakh wanted to go back to Uttar Pradesh and 6 lakh to Bihar. The rest listed West Bengal, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh as their native states. However, only 5.64 lakh out these registered migrants actually went back.

How does the state’s migrant population vote?

Not all migrants are voters in Punjab. But the ones who are living here for almost two decades have now become voters of this state.

Yadav, who hails from UP, said, “I don’t have exact number of voters, but out of nearly 43 lakh who work in Punjab, nearly 30 per cent of them have become voters of Punjab.”

Five seats of Ludhiana — Ludhiana East, Ludhiana South, Ludhiana North, Sahnewal and Ludhiana West — have significant population of migrant voters. Sahnewal has the maximum such voters in Punjab, which is over 50,000. They do have an impact in Fatehgarh Sahib, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Bathinda, Phagwara, Hoshiarpur areas too but major impact is in Ludhiana.

Out of the five migrant voter-influenced seats of Ludhiana, 3 were won by Congress in 2017, while Ludhiana South was won by Lok Insaaf party and Sahnewal by Shiromani Akali Dal.

How do political parties woo migrant population?

Often Bhojpuri stars or even political leaders from migrant states come to Punjab to sway this vote. This year, BJP leader and singer Manoj Tiwari came to Mohali, Hoshiarpur for campaigning. While in the past actors like Shatrughan Sinha too had visited during poll campaigns.

Over the years, the Punjab government started making arrangements for Chhat pooja.

Are there any elected representatives from poorvanchal in Punjab?

There is no one from this section that has made it to the Punjab Assembly. But there have been councillors. In 2018, during municipal corporation polls, Congress, AAP and Lok Insaaf Party had given one ticket each to a migrant candidates but it was not done by SAD-BJP, who were in alliance at that time. Following this, a BJP rebel Radhekrishan had contested as an Independent but he had lost. Radhekrishan had remained a BJP councillor in the past. So far, nearly 3 councillors from migrant community, including Radhekrishan, have won elections to Ludhiana Municipal Corporation.

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What are the migrants’ demands from politicians?

In Ludhiana, nearly 5 wards have a migrant population in majority and hence they want political parties to give them more tickets in local body elections. They even want representation in state Assembly.

“We too need to represent our community so as to raise their voice to the state’s Assembly but so far political parties have not taken this initiative,” said Ganga Singh Thakur, a Bihari migrant who now has a jewellery shop in Ludhiana.

 





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