Unable to bear the famine at least 18 lakh people have migrated out of Bundelkhand to Delhi alone during the past one year, sale of train tickets from the region suggest.
Figures available from ten major railway stations in drought-hit Bundelkhand showed, that between April 2015 and March 2016, nearly 18 lakh people -- which is about 10% of the population -- bought tickets for unreserved compartments in trains going to Delhi from drought-hit Bundelkhand.
CNN-IBN visted these stations and got the following figures: Atarra- 99294, Banda- 103567, Jhansi-745968, Mauranipur: 66939, Mahoba-288313, Khajuraho- 171852, Kulpahad- 28920, Harpalpur- 170821, Manikpur- 54657 and Chitrakoot- 61452
These include first-time migrants and those returning to Delhi to look for work-- the numbers for children and those without tickets will only swell the figures. We do not have the figures for those who travel by bus, truck and local labour contractors.
When pointed out that the distress migration was big, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said only "prosperity and development" would stop it.
"We have to inspire faith in people that work is available in the villages , that there is samajwadi pension , that food is available. Only then they will stay here. If they get opportunities, they will leave, Akhilesh told CNN-IBN.
This is the second consecutive year of drought in Bundelkhand and it has hit almost 85 per cent land in some areas. The government is falling back on MNREGS, but there too corruption and lack of funds is a problem.
"The finance commission says that UP needs more money. Niti Ayog says cut down on centrally sponsored schemes. They are talking in two voices. We have lost Rs 9000 crore. How can I explain that to people?" said Akhilesh.
Local authorities also pointed out that MNREGs was crucial in checking the migration
"About 60 to 70% of people survive on agriculture, that many people do not have much to do. That becomes a vicious cycle. Migration becomes a problem. Now, if someone hasn’t sown in Rabi, we have to engage that person in productive work for the next four months. NREGS becomes crucial", "said Chandra Mohan Thakur, CEO of panchayats in Chattarpur district.
Delhi is not the only destination for the refugees of drought from Bundelkhand – they travelled to Mumbai and Surat also. Railway ticket sales show 90 lakh unreserved travellers in the last 12 months, even if half of them travel short distances and for other reasons like medical attention, that still means 45 lakhs migrated for work.
"From what we can understand, maximum people are migrating for work", said Girish Kanchan, DCM and PRO of Jhansi
The total figures from stations in this region to all destinations including Delhi are, Jhansi: 4670095, Mauranipur: 537348, Kulpahar: 107085, Mahoba: 881893, Banda: 1486777, Atarra: 390832, Chitrakoot: 1004631, Khajuraho: 195853 (Total: 9274514)
"If there was no Delhi, and no work here, what would we have done? That is also something to think about,"one of the migrants said
"Our wheat crop dried up. We have no money. We have to feed our kids also,"said another farmer.
So huge are the numbers that there is no record available with authorities about the actual numbers who have migrated. Estimates available with CNN-IBN show that figures were higher for last year which could suggest that many did not return to their villages. Tickets in the general category to destinations like Delhi is just one indicator of the huge crisis in Bundelkhand.