ArticlePDF Available

Environment and Migration, Purulia, West Bengal



Studies on labor migration in colonial India are numerous. Earlier studies laid emphasis on different 'push factors' to explain labor migration1. Some of them considered the background of labor migration in agrarian context. PP Mohapatra observed that 'the phenomenon of migration in Chotanagpur was both spatially and temporarily variegated'. From some areas laborers went to Assam permanently while from some other areas they migrated seasonally to the coalfields. A large number of agricultural laborers or landless and small peasants ...
Environment and Migration, Purulia, West Bengal
Nirmal Kumar Mahato
Studies on labor migration in colonial India are numerous. Earlier studies laid emphasis on
different ‘push factors’ to explain labor migration1. Some of them considered the background of
labor migration in agrarian context. P. P. Mohapatra observed that ‘the phenomenon of migration
in Chotanagpur was both spatially and temporarily variegated’. From some areas laborers went to
Assam permanently while from some other areas they migrated seasonally to the coalfields. A
large number of agricultural laborers or landless and small peasants migrated to the coalfields.
However, the migration to Assam was associated with the peasant household. Mohapatra explains
that emigration from Hazaribagh or Palamou was possibly due to lack of expansion of cultivable
land by the prevailing institutional arrangements. Emigration from Ranchi, Manbhum and
Singhbhum took place because in those regions further expansion of arable land was no more
possible. Under these circumstances, a number of peasants on marginal lands with limited or no
irrigation facilities came under the mercy of an erratic monsoon and thus their food supply was
under severe strain2 .
Researches have been done on the economic factors determining why people migrate for
work. Labor migration from Purulia in colonial and post-colonial times has been least discussed
from the ecological point of view. However, some recent studies3 from different parts of India
show that deforestation has exacerbated migration of both men and women. The present paper
seeks to argue that environmental crises in indigenous belts of habitation create difficulties in
survival and ultimately force people to migrate.
Environmental Change in Purulia
A brief overview of the ecological setting of any particular region may be regarded as the sine
qua non of history and culture. The district of Manbhum (presently Purulia district of West
Bengal, India) is the first step of the gradual descent from the elevated plateau of Chotanagpur
proper to the plains of lower Bengal and also a part of the Ranchi peneplain. The hills and valleys
made up most part of the district bordered in the north by Hazaribagh and Santhal Parganas, to
the east by Burdwan, Bankura and Midnapore, to the south by Singhbhum and in the west by
Ranchi and Hazaribagh4.
The natural vegetation of pre-colonial Manbhum was essentially arboreal. Actually, it
was a part of the Jungle Mahals, a land of moist tropical deciduous forests characterized by tall
trees rising up to 40 meters to form the top canopy, a lower second storey of many species with
some evergreens, then a mantle of shrubs entangled by a network of climbers5. The environment
was capable of supporting many plants and animals. Moist deciduous forest of pre-colonial
Purulia supported a wide variety of herbivores and carnivores, intimately linked to their habitat6.
There was close relationship between the nature and the adivasi (indigenous and tribal people of
India) people.
With the colonial intervention, from the late eighteenth century onwards a process of
transformation started in Purulia. Ecological intervention was the prime factor of this
transformation. The British idea of development and progress was based on agricultural
advancement. They tried to imbricate their idea in Purulia also. For the agrarian intervention7 the
bandhs (tanks/ ponds/reservoirs) were utilized. The colonial rulers encouraged the construction of
bandhs to increase the area under irrigation8. In this respect, the facilitating role of the colonial
administration in water management maintained a continuity rather than disjuncture. Similar
incident occurred in the case of water management (kuhls) in Kangra as Mark Backer has shown9.
But there was a significant disjuncture in the natural, social and cultural values of the ponds
fostered by the adivasis. The adivasi people not only considered the ponds as their honorable
social relatives with different ecological, economic and spiritual qualities but also personified
them with much more familial values. This automatically brought in the daily life of society
different conservational approaches towards the pond related ecosystems. But, the colonial
masters saw the water bodies merely as holes in the ground storing water. They exploited the
water resources for irrigation and fishery without any consideration for the biodiversity and the
underground water table. They laid emphasis only on the economic gain from such water bodies
but the ecological dimension received scant attention. This mentality continues even in post-
colonial India.
The British agrarian invasion led to different types of land tenure systems (i.e. rented
tenure, rent free tenure, maintenance tenure and service tenure) which extended the horizontal
stratification. The estate holder or old Raja (zamindar) held the highest stratum in the hierarchy.
The tenure holders were placed second in the hierarchy. They had to pay rent to the estate holder.
The under tenure holders collected rent from one or more villages and paid rent to the tenure
holders10. The chiefs or rajas of Purulia were transformed into zamindars as also new
intermediaries ‘…emerged from among the holders of jungle clearing tenures in the nineteenth
century’.11 During the time sub-infeudation also occurred12.
In the early part of the nineteenth century forest was primarily regarded as a ‘resource’. The
colonial policy of extension of cultivable land at the expense of forest tracts resulted in large scale
deforestation. This also involved killing of wild and ferocious animals13. H. Coupland records
that ‘…rewards were paid for the destruction of three tigers and seventy nine leopards’14.
Due to the growing demand of the railway system which required immense quantities of
sal trees to be felled and logged to provide sleepers for rail floors or lay-out, pressure mounted on
the forests of Jungle Mahal 15. By the first decade of twentieth century, Purulia was connected
with Asansol, Sini, Chakradharpur, Kharagpur, Gomo, Jharia and Katras. In 1908 a narrow gauge
rail line of 2’-6’ was constructed linking Purulia with Ranchi. Coupland writes that ‘…this line
affords an outlet for the grain and jungle products of the western portion of the district’16.
Timbers were also required for ship building17. The opening of the main line of Bengal Nagpur
Railway through Kharagpur, Jhargram (1898) had a profound impact upon the forests of the
region. Interior places became more accessible with the introduction of railways. As the forest
products could be transported to distant places by the railway there was a sudden increase of
Moreover, as a result of agrarian invasion there was large scale deforestation in colonial
time. This caused the denudation which decreased soil moisture as well as rainfall. Average
annual and daily temperatures also increased and desertification was invited which ultimately
devoured the whole region. The agrarian invasion and destruction of forests caused
environmental degradation. Vinita Damodaran writes that ‘…in the case of Chotanagpur the story
of environmental degradation can not be so easily challenged’19. It can be viewed from different
To combat deforestation, colonial forest officials prescribed the Brandis' principle of
forest reservation. But the district officials were always interested in collecting more revenue than
the previous year without giving any heed to the forest preservation principles20. During the
colonial period when the forest was devastated and resource scarcity appeared, the indigenous
people were deprived of different food supplements. In pre-colonial period the horopathists
(adivasi medicine men) had a knowledge system that included the curative use of different plants
and animal species available. Following the depletion of biological resources these were slowly
erased from the indigenous knowledge system also. Thus, they were finding it difficult to procure
medicine from plants and animals. They were compelled to take the path of exorcism. Evil eye
(witchcraft) was created.
Due to environmental degradation and disruption of hydrological management system of
the adivasis, the capacity to protect crops was lost. Draught became a common phenomenon since
the end of the nineteenth century. This resulted in failure of crops. The colonial forest policy
deprived the adivasis from forest food. Nutritional crises and diseases became common
phenomena. The debt bondage added further miseries.
Thus, in Purulia, the hunter-gatherer indigenous peoples like the Savars and Birhors
became ‘ecological refugees’ due to the destruction of forest ecology. The agricultural adivasi
society also plunged into crises. Owing to environmental degradation water management was
dislocated. People were deprived from forest food due to the destruction of forest ecology.
Diseases born out of nutritional crises became common and people were increasingly
marginalized. They had no alternative but to migrate. The sustainable economy of the indigenous
people was permanently extinguished. Thus, the tribal landscape looked more like a graveyard. A
jhumur song characterizes it:
i bhuma rudha rudha, chhatni dubi gela’
[It implies that the land became dry and unkind so our chest had been sinking.]21
The district had been suffering from chronic famine for years together
(1866,1874,1892,1897,1903,1904-05,1906-1907,1939-45,1953,1958)22. Ultimately, these
marginalized people were forced to migrate into Assam or other adjoining regions that could
provide opportunities for occupation.
Forced Migration in the Colonial Period
The indigenous people migrated principally to Assam and the neighboring coalfields. Bradley
Birt notes ‘…Manbhum is the land of the cultivators, collie, and the Bhumij Kol – the cultivator
pursuing the dull round of daily life and fighting with each recurring season the battle of
existence’23. He also writes that many people migrated to the tea gardens of Assam and Bengal in
‘…hope of better wages, or by difficulties or scarcity at home, or perhaps the victims of the
threats, promises, or persuasions of a recruiter who was not to be denied’. People migrated as
laborers as soon as one crop of paddy failed. Scarcity at home was one of the variables
responsible for the fluctuation in migration. In the year 1900, the year of scarcity (famine like
situation due to failure of crops), the total migrants from this district was 65,190 but in the normal
year (when people could survive with their crops they produced) of 1901 total migrants were
The contemporary periodical, Mukti, reports that the condition of the villages kept deteriorating
continually with the passing of the days. Poor people, under starved condition migrated elsewhere
in each and every year25. Chotare Desmaji wrote Dekoko then nalhalko calak kana… ona iate
Jom bante onte note rengec jalate onte noteko chir chaturak kana26. [There is no food at home;
people have to go in search of a job… Due to excessive impoverishment people are to migrate].
On the verge of starvation, construction of railway networks and roads opened a way out
of the distressed situation27. Thus, Purulia became the ‘best known gateway of Chotanagpur for
the travelers, the push-push (arkati or agent) and the coolie’28. Through Ranchi-Purulia road
many of the coolies came to the tea gardens of Assam and Bengal. They emigrated in the hope of
more wages, or to escape the difficulties and scarcities at home or being victims under threats29.
A tribal song30 reflected the phenomenon-
hasi hasi prem fasi
Mahajane paralo,patutular nam kare
Asamete chalalo’
[The money lender cheated us and sent to the tea gardens in Assam in the name of employment.
Certainly those money lenders were benefited by sending poor people to Assam earning
A steady stream of emigrants flew out from the district mostly to tea gardens of Sylhet,
Cachar and Assam on the one side and Darjeeling and the Duars on the other. Those who went to
the former place were bounded for a term of year. Those who went to the latter place were all free
laborers. A large number of Kols and Oraons emigrated to Calcutta and Sundarbans where they
settled permanently31.
The supply of coolies fluctuated under various circumstance. The following table shows
the fluctuation in emigration (Table1).
Table 1: The Fluctuation in Emigration
Source: Bengal District Gazetteers: Manbhum, Statistics by H. Coupland, 1911
The enormous decrease was due to opening of coalfields at hand in Gobindapur and
Giridi on the one hand and railway lines on the other32.
Year Emigrants
1900 65,190
1901 30,777
1909 15,492
Gender Dimension in Migration
Shashanka Sinha has shown that ‘…the migration had a significant gender dimension’33. In 1891,
5,500 men and 12,000 women emigrated from Manbhum34. Large number of female emigrated
not only for economic determinism but also for their crumbling position in the patriarchal
family35: Women also felt insecure in their own land. They had to migrate. This also gave birth to
another kind of exploitation which was perceived by the victims themselves. We can quote a
jhumur song of a contemporary poet Dina Tanti36:
chatichuti diye more samkoralo dipughare
Lekhala hamar sat puruser nam
Hayre lampota Shyam fanki diye badhu chalali Assam
[The thikadars (contractors) misguided me by his clever, cunning, and deceptive advice putting
me in a dark room. They had noted down seven generations. This debauch had compelled me to
go to Assam].
Another song reflects the disillusionment of the lady37:
mane chhila Assam jaba jara pankha tangaba
Sahib dila amar kadaleri kam’
[I had that desire to go to Assam. / I would be the owner of two decorated fans. / But the Sahib
gave me the work of digging.].
A third song runs as follows38:
amra duti ma biti dine rate cha kuti
Kutite kutite bahe gham
Adham dinanath bhane je jabe Assam bane
Ar na firibe nija dhame’
[We are mother and daughter two in number. / We work in the tea plantation / While working we
are sweating. / The poor Dina Tanti tells / The man who would go to Assam / Would never return
to his native land.].
Pic 1: Adivasi Women on their way to Assam Tea Garden
Source: Bradley Birt, F. B.1910. Chotanagpur: A Little Known Province of the Empire,
London,Smith, Elder& Co.,p-174.
Abuses in Emigration and the Emigration Act
Thus, different types of abuses had shot up in the labor recruiting system. It has been reflected not
only in the official accounts but also in the indigenous songs. The Act of VI of 1901 was passed
in order to check the abuses of recruiting system. In order to supply coolies many recruiters and
their agents used their force and fraud. In this way, many unfortunate laborers had been taken off
to Assam against their will39. As Purulia was the headquarters of the district in Chotanagpur
(easily accessible by rail from Assam and the junction through which practically all coolies
recruited in the Division and the Native States adjoining had to pass), the control of emigration to
the Tea Gardens played an important factor in the administration here. According to the Act, the
Deputy Commissioner and Senior Deputy Magistrate became the Ex-officio Superintendents of
Emigration for both the districts of Manbhum and Singhbhum. Recruitments through licensed
contractors and recruiters known as arkati were supervised mainly under Chapter IV of Act VI of
1901. In 1908-1909 five contractors and sixty four recruiters held license. In the same year, 1,532
coolies with 389 dependants were registered and put under contract40.
Migration Process in Post-Colonial Period
The process of migration continued even in the post-colonial period. People from Purulia
continued to move out to more fertile regions like Bardhaman expecting assured work. Very soon
their hopes too were belied. The introduction of Damodar Valley Corporation canal system in the
1960s along with its slow expansion denuded such opportunities. From the early 1970s irrigated
boro (a type of high yielding paddy which is cultivated in summer) crop was introduced. After
assuming power in 1977, the Left Front Government adopted agrarian reforms energetically in its
early years, in particular the registration of share-croppers, the redistribution of land held over the
ceiling and panchayati raj41. During this period, small land holding cultivators were beginning to
consolidate their positions. Many of them were actively involved in the politics within the Left
Front coalition. When they gained profits from agriculture, they began to invest in groundwater
irrigation. It was more attractive in the somewhat less conflict-prone rural environment. In the
early 1980s the boro cultivation was rapidly expanding due to new cultivation technologies of the
last two decades. In Bardhaman district, as a result of these changes, huge numbers of manual
workers were required for the transplanting and harvesting of paddy42.
Many (though by no means all) seasonal migrant workers were employed in harvesting
and transplanting paddy in West Bengal. Ben Rogaly has shown that seasonal migration in West
Bengal is not simply an inevitable part of the cycle of indebtedness. Workers from the border
regions of Bihar and West Bengal and from elsewhere in West Bengal have a long history of
converging on the south-central part of the state for seasonal agricultural work. With the increase
in rice production in West Bengal in the 1980s and early 1990s, employment opportunities were
created for potential migrants in transplanting and harvesting for a season which would be
continuous (i.e. a month to six weeks for the same employer) rather than sporadic. It would also
be significantly better paid than working for employers in migrants' home areas. At the end of the
season, migrants would be paid a combination of a daily allowance of rice, accommodation and
fuel, plus a lump sum of cash. It had become common for migrants to return home with a lump
sum of several hundred rupees43. Purulia district, due to lack of irrigation facilities, relied on a
single rice crop. This required very few paid and permanent workers. For the transplanting (the
exact timing of which depended on the beginning of the monsoon and was therefore relatively
unpredictable) and for harvesting, all the local labor supply was sufficient. Thus, employment
opportunities in Purulia varied from periods when labor was urgently needed to periods when one
just only had to sit back and wait for the next round of labor requirement. The two busy periods,
transplanting in June-August and harvesting in October-December, coincided with increasing
migration possibilities for local workers and there was no seasonal in-migration to the district.
During harvest season, daily wages would be a maximum of 12 rupees per day44.
Most studies of migration in the region (like that of Rogaly) deal with the economic
aspect of migration but environmental concerns have been least discussed. The environmental
degradation was not addressed even after the British left and independence was achieved. The
soil, lateritic and infertile, tends to deteriorate rapidly and immense care needs to be invested for
profitable cultivation. Due to continuous exploitation without the basic care needed, the soil lost
its ability to absorb moisture from rainfall. On the other hand, rains also are insufficient. Each
year nearly 50% of the different tracts of land get dangerously eroded and become unfit for
agriculture45. The proportion of waste land is very high on the one hand, while current fallow and
yield of cultivated land is very low on the other hand. Thus, the cost of operation is very
inevitably very high46. Low agricultural productivity and deforestation resulted nutritional crisis
which had its roots in the colonial period. This affected the migratory trends in Purulia. West
Bengal District Gazetteer mentioned that the ‘Prospect of agriculture being such, it failed largely
to attract any sizeable immigration. On the contrary, it caused a more or less equal volume of
emigration, thus offsetting the effects of emigration’47.
Nitya Rao and Kumar Rana in their study48 argue that deforestation has exacerbated
migration of both men and women. Due to the modern developmental policies, whether the
building of big dams, taking over of forest and agricultural lands for industrial enterprises, or
restrictions on the local population regarding the use of forests and common property resources,
local women and men lose control over their basic resources. As a result of deforestation, women
have to walk longer distances for fuel, non-availability of food items to supplement the diet, such
as greens, berries, mushrooms, etc, and to have access to opportunities of earning a little extra by
selling forest by-products like tooth twigs, leaf plates, green mangoes and so on. Cultivation of a
single rain fed crop can survive from three to four months. Even if rainfall occurs abundantly
sometimes, rain water cannot be stored due to the absence of such facilities. So it is hard to
facilitate double cropping. Thus, it made survival difficult and they were forced to enter the labor
market, whether locally or as migrants49. Thus there is a clear similarity between the condition of
the Dumka region and Purulia.
In his anthropological study Dikshit Sinha50 has shown that the Kherias of Kulabahal
village in Purulia district named 139 items of food from which their sustenance came. But later
the food items were attenuated and the supply became infrequent51. During my field study at
Sidhatairn village of the Kherias, an old Kheria man Kalipada Savar commented that most of the
victuals which were generally consumed by his family during the childhood of his father are no
more available now52. Such agony of nutritional crisis has been reflected in a song of the
ban badar hare lila, sikarbakar furanjela,
Pakpakhur pawa haila day
Pet ache pit ache, meya ache chhela ache
Bal eder kemane bachay’
[Forest had been captured, so there is no root for food and medicine. / It is too tough to get animal
species. / I have body and stomach. / I have wife, sons and daughters. / How could we live on? ]
Thus the district suffered from chronic scarcity for a long time even in the post colonial
period. During the food scarcity of 1953, the adivasi people generally tended to depend on the
forest and forest products. But fruits and roots from the forest were dried up soon due to
excessive heat and water crisis. Many people migrated to the eastern districts in search of work.
Some people returned not getting any work in the east as well. The distressing condition has been
described in a periodical as:
Manbhume e batsar byapakbhabe khadyer anatan o kajer nitanta abhab haiyachhe-tanmadhye
katakguli thanar katakguli anchale bhayabaha durbhikshyer rup prakatita haiyachhe. anahare
sthane sthane lok mara jaite arambha kariyachhe;-grame grame niratisay khadyabhaber janya
lok akhadya kukhadya khaiya kono rakame jiban dharan koriteche; bahu lok anner leshmatra
paitechhe na; keha ba dinante ba saptahante marjol khaite paitechhe. e batsar nidarun grismer
dahane roudrer agun barshitechhe. e samayer falmul pata sukaiya binashta haiyachhe;- kaj nai,
mahajaner kachh haite karja nai. Jibikar anyanya adhar –jaha manbhume thake, e batsar tahao
nai. dale dale lok gram chhariya Bangladeshe kajer sandhane chaliya giyachhe54
[This year, there has been severe food crisis and lack of employment opportunity in Manbhum.
The situation is equal to famine in some areas under some police stations. There have been death
due to hunger in some places; in many villages, people are having whatever they can lay their
hands upon, things which otherwise do not qualify as food; many have not tasted rice in a long
time; others are eating only starch water once a day. The heat is scorching. The usual forest food
products like fruits or roots have already gone dry; there is no work, nor any possibility of getting
a loan from the village moneylender. The other scopes of earning a living, which are normally
available in Manbhum, are not there this year. Large groups are leaving their villages for
Bangladesh in search of work (i.e. eastern districts of West Bengal)].
Similar conditions emerged once again in the year of 1958. People died in this scarcity
due to starvation and malnutrition. According the survey of Lok Sevak Sangha (A political
organization) some people died in Manbazar, Barabazar, and Baghmundi police station due to
Scarcity and starvation caused by environmental degradation were the main reasons for
people’s migration. Apart from periodical reports, this situation has also been described in
indigenous songs as well as in Bengali literature. In his novel Sindure Kajale, Saikat Rakshit56
has shown that many girls who belong to Kamar-Kumor-Baouri-Kurmi group left their home and
took up the work of laborers in mines, tea gardens and agricultural lands in the Eastern region.
He writes, “Manbhum-Puruilar koto koto kamaar-kumor-bauri-kurmi bitichhyala gharchaara
hoye bhindeshe khete khaoar swadhin jeebon khunje niyeche. Khonite, cha-bagangulite kimba
poober nabal jomite ksheter kaaj niye shedikei theke geche.57
He also attracts our attention to a popular folk love song of a bonded laborer Srikanta and Kurmi
lady Bhadari. They fell in love and left their village to go to Magra in the Hooghly district in
order to get a job in a brick factory as a reja and khedia (male laborers who prepare brick is
known as khadia and female laborers are known as reja). He writes, bochhor bochhor khoray
shara puruila jelaar koto koto graam er manushke graamchhara hote hoy. Peter daaye. Taader
adhikangsho tokhon ei dikei paari dey. Ei nabal krishikshetrogulite santhal-adivasi-sabar-kurmi-
kumar-sunri-baurira kamin munish khate. ‘’ [Every year people have to leave their home due to
scarcity and famine. Most of them move to this side (Burdwan/Hooghly).Here the people
belonged to Santal-Adivasi-Savar-Kurmi-Kumar-Sundi-Bauri work as labourer in the agricultural
Here the reja khedia sustain their lives like machines. They are involved throughout the
day for brick making. At night they prepare their food and buy their drink. One night when
Srikanta was drunk the munshi (supervisor of the brick factory) tried to seize the opportunity to
abuse Bhadari59.
Sexual harassment is indeed a common phenomenon in the brick making factories and
similar other small scale production units where the indigenous people from Purulia traditionally
go to earn a living. Ben Rogaly writes that ‘women having to spend one or more nights at labor
market-places and traveling without kin, are more likely to be harassed by employers and
Census reports, however, indicate the nature and trends of migration process. According
to the census of 1961, 16.4% of population of Purulia migrated to other district of West Bengal
and 33.03% population migrated to other states. Most of the small emigration (47,101) from
Purulia occurred to the district of Bankura and Burdwan (13,984)61. The census operations
generally took place at a time when harvesting of the monsoon crop had already been completed
and therefore does not portray the migration trends successfully. Migration from one district to
another takes place temporarily or seasonally from time to time. At the time of census operation
which falls in the first March all the harvesting of the monsoon crop is over. Large scale
movement took place from the districts of Purulia, Bankura and Midnapur to Burdwan. It together
amounted for 50,345 of the 68,285 immigrants to the district from within the state62 (Census of
India, Vol XV, 1961). The following table shows streams of migration within the state carrying at
least 10,000 persons in 1961.
Table 2: Migration from Purulia to Bankura and Burdwan
Streams No. Persons Involved
10,000 persons or above but below 25,000 persons
From Purulia to Bankura 18,641
From Purulia to Burdwan 13,984
Source: Census of India 1961, Vol-XV, WB & Sikkim, Part-I Book-I, General, J D Gupta p-332
Table 3: Migration to Contiguous Districts, 1961
Total no of
emigrants to other
Total no of
emigrants to
contiguous district in
the state
Percentage of
Column 3 to 2
Purulia 47,101 34,257 72.7
Source: Census of India 1961, Vol-XV, WB & Sikkim, Part-I Book-I, General, JD Gupta p-334
Table 4: Inter- District Migration, West Bengal, 1961
Migrants to Districts Migrants from District: Purulia
Darjeeling 208
Jalpaiguri 123
Coochbihar 53
West Dinajpur 25
Malda 200
Murshidabad 245
Nadia 245
24-Parganas 3883
Calcutta 3848
Howrah 1153
Hooghly 2334
Burdwan 13984
Bankura 18641
Birbhum 527
Midnapur 1632
Source: Census of India 1961, Vol-XV, WB & Sikkim, Part-I Book-I, General, JD Gupta p-329
From this case study in Purulia district it is apprised that ecological degradation is one the most
vital causes for migration. Due to ecological degradation adivasi society plunged into the crises.
With the dislocation of their ecological moral economy it was difficult to survive. There was
nutritional crisis which affected their health also. In the post colonial period the same trend
continued. Sometime Government took developmental initiatives but it did not try to recover the
lost ecosystem so that the people could survive on their own. Traditional water management and
mentality to conserve water was also lost. In the district, scarcity and nutritional crisis came not
as a phenomenon but as a process. Thus, people were forced to migrate for their survival. The
migration had a significant gender dimension. Large number of women emigrated in the colonial
period not only for economic determinism but also for their crumbling position in their own
families. Women felt insecure in their own land. They had to migrate. This also generated sexual
exploitation which continues till date. With the revival of some of the traditional values and
customs of the adivasis, livelihood security can be ensured and adivasi migration can be checked.
I am extremely thankful to Dr Ranabir Samaddar, Director, CRG and CRG for facilitating this study. I am
also grateful to Professor Suchibrata Sen and Sri Arnab Dutta.
1 Chottopadhaya, H. 1979.Indians in Srilanka, A Historical Study, Calcutta.
Tinker,H. 1974. A New System of Slavery: The Export of Indian Labour Overseas, 1830-1920, London.
There is a lot of other work on labor migration. Apart from these studies some dealt with the origin of
labor migration. Most important example is:
Chakraborty, Lalita 1978. Emergence of an Industrial Labour Force in a Dual Economy: Britsh India,
1880-1920, The Economic and Social History Review, Vol-X,pp—249-328.
2 Mohapatra, P.P.1985. Coolies and Colliers: A Study of the Agrarian Context of Labour migration from
Chotanagpur1880-1920, Studies in History,Vol-1, No.-2, p-297-98.
3 Studies like Rao, Nitya and Rana, Kumar. 1997.Women's Labour and Migration: The Case of the
Santhals, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 32, No. 50 (Dec. 13-19,), pp. 3187-3189
4 Coupland, H.1911.Bengal District Gazetteers: Manbhum, Calcutta, p-2.
5 West Bengal District Gazetteers: Purulia.1985. Calcutta, p-11.
6 Ibid, p-12.
7 Biswamoy Pati has rightly pointed out that ‘some of the complexities related to the agrarian intervention,
the production process and the social stratification that emerged are not discussed for constrains of spaces’.
Biswamoy Pati, ‘Survival as Resistance: Tribals in Colonial Orissa’, Indian Historical Review, 33 :1,
8 Extension of cultivation and encouragement of cultivation were tacitly allowed through nayabadi (new
tillage) and ahrat (embankment) and jalsasan or water supply. For details see W W Hunter, A Statistical
Account of Bengal, Vol-XVII, 1887, 320-21. PDRRC, Circle note of Attestation camp, Manbazar, Session-
1920-21, 17-30.
9 J. Mark Backer, Colonial Influence on Property, Community, and Land Use in Kangra, Himachal
Pradesh, in Social Nature: Resources, Representation and Rule in India, Arun Agrawal and K.
Sivaramakrishnan, eds, New Delhi: OUP, 2001, 47-67.
10 Purulia District Record Room Correspondence, Purulia, Circle Note of Attestation Camp, Manbazar,
Session-1920-21, 55.
11Jungle bari tenure was a reclaiming tenure. This lease was given to a tenant in consideration of grantee
clearing jungle and bringing land under cultivation. Colonial rulers used this tenure for their agrarian
12 P. P. Mohapatra, ‘Class conflict and agrarian regimes in Chotanagpur, 1860-1950’, Indian Economic and
Social History Review, 28:1, 1991, 22.
13 Damodaran, Vinita. 2002. Gender, Forests and Famine in 19th-Century Chotanagpur, Indian Journal of
Gender Studies, Vol-9, No-2, p- 142-144.
14 Coupland, H.1911.op.cit.p-21.
15 Mark, Profenburger.1999. The struggle for forest control in Jungle Mahals of West Bengal 1750-1990. In
Village Voices, Forest Choices (eds) Profenburger, Mark and MacGean, B. OUP, New Delhi.p-137.
16 Coupland, H.1911.op.cit.p-185.
17 West Bengal State Archives, Kolkata, Revenue Dept., File No.- 95/7/19, Govt. of Bengal, Forest Branch,
May, 1919. Para-7-9.
18 Centenary Commemoration Volume, West Bengal Forests 1964, p-133.
19 Damodaran, Vinita. 2002. op. cit. p-133
20 Purulia District Record Room Correspondence, Purulia, D. O. No. 2846/22 (12), From Hardyal Singh,
Divisional Forest Officer, To Sahib P. N. Mukherjee, 26 March 1943, Para-7.
21 Basu Roy, Subodh.2006. Ramkrishna Gangulir Jhumur Padabali, Anriju Prakashani, Cheliyama,
22 West Bengal District Gazetteers: Purulia & Mukti,1953,1958
23 Bradley Birt, F. B.1910. Chotanagpur : A Little Known Province of the EmpireLondon, Smith, Elder&
24 Ibid, p-177.
25 Mukti(a Bengali periodical of Manbhum District Congress), 1929, , Year-4th, Issue No.28. p-34
26 Chotare Deshmaji Reak Katha. Hul Laha tek Ar Assam Guma Kolan Bandhaen Reak, Fourth edition-
1964, Published by the Northern Evangelical Lutheran Church, Benegaria, p-65. It is an original Santali
27 Sinha, S.S.2005. Restless Mothers Turbulent Daughters: Situating Tribes in Gender Studies, Stree,
Kolkata, p-105.
28 Bradley Birt, F. B.1910.op.cit.p-172.
29 Ibid, p-175.
30 Mahato, P. P. and Mahato, Khirod C.2007. Collective Wisdom and excellence related to World Views on
Forest, Biodiversity and Nature-Man-Spirit Complex of the indigenous people of Eastern India. In Forest,
Government and Tribe ed. Patty, C. K., Concept, New Delhi, p-41.
31 Bradley Birt, F. B.1910.op.cit.pp-175-76.
32 Ibid. p-177.
33 Sinha, S.S.2005.op.cit.p-106.
34 Coupland, H.1911. op. cit. p-70.
35 Sinha, S.S. 2005.op.cit. p-110
36 SinghDeo, Mihirlal.2007. Kaler Prekhapate Jhumur o Swaralipi, Anriju Prakashani, Cheliyama, Purulia,
37 Ibíd.
38 Ibíd.
39 Bradley Birt, F. B.1910. op.cit.p-177.
40 Coupland, H.1911.op.cit.pp-251-252.
41 Rogaly, Ben et el. 2001.Seasonal Migration, Social Change and Migrants' Rights: Lessons from West
Bengal, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 36, No. 49 (Dec. 8-14), p-4551.
42 Ibid.
43 Rogaly, Ben. 1998. Workers on the Move: Seasonal Migration and Changing Social Relations in Rural
India , Gender and Development, Vol. 6, No. 1, (Mar.,), p- 22.
44 Ibid. p 24
45 West Bengal District Gazetteers:Purulia, op.cit,p-164.
46 Ibid,p-116.
47 Ibid.
48 Rao and Rana have shown that with the erosion of traditional livelihood and few local options available,
Santhals especially woman have been forced to enter the labour market as migrants.
49 Rao, Nitya and Rana, Kumar. 1997. op.cit. pp. 3187-3189.
50 Sinha has shown how the hill Kherias of Purulia became proletariat due destruction of forest ecology
51 Sinha, Dikshit.1989. Proletarization of a Hunting and Gathering Tribe- The case of Hill Kheria of
Purulia. In Changing land system and the tribals of eastern India in the Modern period (ed.) Banerjee,
Tarashankar. Subarnarekha, Calcutta, pp-74-75.
52 Interview with Kalipada Savar, a Savar old man of Sidhatarn Village, Purulia District.
53 Karmakar, Jaladhar.2004. Puruliar Birhor Samaj. In Ahalya Bhumi Purulia ed. Jana, Debaprasad, vol-2,
Kolkata, p-71.
54 Mukti, 1953; Year 14, Issue: 22.
55 Mukti, 1958, Year 19, Issue: 36
56In this novel, Rakshit has described how a woman has been exploited in the man’s prison. It is an
important example in what socio-economic context woman have been sexually harassed.
57 Rakshit, Saikat.2002. Sindure Kajole( A Bengali Novel).Muktakshar,Kolkata, P-60
58 Ibid,p-79.
59 Ibid,p-80.
60 Rogaly, Ben. 1998.op.cit.p-125.
61 Census of India 1961, Vol-XVI, W.B & Sikkim., Part-II C-(ii),DI to DIII, J. D. Gupta,p-332.
62 Census of India 1961, Vol-XV, W.B. & Sikkim, Part-I Book-I, General, J. D. Gupta,p-pp-328-29.
Map showing the Manbhum District (1869), made by Major
J.L. Sherwill & Captain D. Mcdonald in 1869.
by the author from Purul
ia District Rec
ord R
Map showing the
District (19
56 onwards
Full-text available
en Water security is a term associated with the availability of fresh water for all. However, this finite resource has certain other related factors, as water resource can act as a driver for development or underdevelopment. From ancient history to now, human civilization has been dependent on water resources, not only for drinking but for the maintenance of natural systems, for hunting and foraging, through to the growth of agriculture and industrialization. Moreover, the relationship between water resource and regional development becomes more prominent in those areas where this finite resource is scarce. In most dryland areas, water resource management becomes an integral part of regional policy for overall development. This study aims to understand the intensity of water resource scarcity and management through proper site selection in the southwestern part of West Bengal, particularly in Purulia district. The district is underdeveloped, as well as water stressed due to climatic, geological, and socioeconomic factors. Water scarcity in the district impacts agricultural productivity through wasteland generation, which also drives regional poverty and migration. This study also seeks to explain how sustainable development goals, such as climate change (SDGs 13), life on land (SDGs 15), and poverty (SDGs 1), are related to water security. With the help of a semi‐structured questionnaire, secondary data (census, 2011), and geographical information systems, we endorse the view that assessment and management of water through proper site selection can help drive integrated rural water security. 抽象 zh 水安全是一个与为所有人提供淡水有关的术语。然而,这一有限资源还有一些其他相关因素,因为水资源能充当发展或发展落后的驱动因素。从远古历史到现在,人类文明一直依赖水资源,不仅用于饮用,还用于维持自然系统,以供打猎和觅食,以及农业和工业化发展。此外,水资源与地区发展之间的关系在那些水资源匮乏地区变得更为重要。在大多数干旱地区,水资源管理成为了针对整体发展的地区政策所不可缺少的一部分。本研究通过在西孟加拉邦西南部(尤其是普如里亚县)进行正确选址,旨在理解水资源匮乏程度和管理。该县发展落后,并因气候、地质、社会经济因素而缺水。该县因水匮乏导致荒地增加,进而影响农业生产力,荒地也加剧了地区贫困和人口流动。本研究还试图解释例如气候变化(SDGs 13)、陆地生物(SDGs 15)和无贫穷(SDGs 1)等可持续发展目标(SDGs )如何与水安全相联系。通过一项半结构化问卷、次级数据(census, 2011)和地理信息系统(GIS),我们认为,通过正确选址来评估和管理水资源能帮助推动农村综合水安全。 Resumen es La seguridad del agua es un término asociado con la disponibilidad de agua dulce para todos. Sin embargo, este recurso finito tiene ciertos otros factores relacionados, ya que el recurso hídrico puede actuar como un motor para el desarrollo o el subdesarrollo. Desde la historia antigua hasta ahora, la civilización humana ha dependido de los recursos hídricos, no solo para beber, sino para el mantenimiento de sistemas naturales de caza y alimentación, hasta el crecimiento de la agricultura y la industrialización. Además, la relación entre el recurso hídrico y el desarrollo regional se vuelve más prominente en aquellas áreas donde este recurso finito es escaso. En la mayoría de las zonas de tierras secas, la gestión de los recursos hídricos se convierte en una parte integral de la política regional para el desarrollo general. Este estudio tiene como objetivo comprender la intensidad de la escasez y la gestión de los recursos hídricos a través de la selección adecuada del sitio en la parte suroeste de Bengala Occidental, particularmente en el distrito de Purulia. El distrito está subdesarrollado y tiene escasez de agua debido a factores climáticos, geológicos y socioeconómicos. La escasez de agua en el distrito afecta la productividad agrícola a través de la generación de tierras baldías, que también genera pobreza regional y migración. Este estudio también busca explicar cómo los objetivos de desarrollo sostenible como el cambio climático (ODS 13), la vida en la tierra (ODS 15) y la pobreza (ODS 1) están relacionados con la seguridad del agua. Con la ayuda de un cuestionario semiestructurado, datos secundarios (censo, 2011) y sistemas de información geográfica (SIG), respaldamos la opinión de que la evaluación y gestión del agua a través de la selección adecuada del sitio puede ayudar a impulsar la Seguridad Integrada del Agua Rural.
Full-text available
People who migrate temporarily for manual work are not usually unionised and are often unprotected by effective legislation against travel and workplace risks. All this is true of West Bengal, where migrant workers employed in rice cultivation have made crucial contributions to the agricultural successes of the last two decades. West Bengal's gangs of mobile rice workers are recruited directly by individual employers at busy labour market places or in migrants' home villages. This paper summarises the findings of recent empirical research on the scale and pattern of seasonal migration for rice work in West Bengal. It analyses the causes and consequences of the migration, including its relation to ongoing social change in four source areas.
Full-text available
This paper examines the links between deforestation and famine in the context of the late-19th-century food crisis in Chotanagpur. It attempts to understand the phenomenon famine as a gendered one, and explores the cultural and gendered meanings of hunger. In doing so it looks at the symbolism of the landscape and the gendering of it by local communities in Chotanagpur.
This paper considers seasonal migration in different regions of India, and argues the need for a better understanding of social and economic relations and the circumstances under which migration can affect these to the benefit of poor migrant workers.
Apart from these studies some dealt with the origin of labor migration. Most important example is: Chakraborty, Lalita 1978. Emergence of an Industrial Labour Force in a Dual Economy
  • H Chottopadhaya
  • Calcutta Study
  • H Tinker
Chottopadhaya, H. 1979.Indians in Srilanka, A Historical Study, Calcutta. Tinker,H. 1974. A New System of Slavery: The Export of Indian Labour Overseas, 1830-1920, London. There is a lot of other work on labor migration. Apart from these studies some dealt with the origin of labor migration. Most important example is: Chakraborty, Lalita 1978. Emergence of an Industrial Labour Force in a Dual Economy: Britsh India, 1880-1920, The Economic and Social History Review, Vol-X,pp-249-328.
Coolies and Colliers: A Study of the Agrarian Context of Labour migration fromWomen's Labour and Migration: The Case of the Santhals
  • P P Mohapatra
  • Rana Nitya
  • Kumar
Mohapatra, P.P.1985. Coolies and Colliers: A Study of the Agrarian Context of Labour migration from Chotanagpur1880-1920, Studies in History,Vol-1, No.-2, p-297-98. 3 Studies like Rao, Nitya and Rana, Kumar. 1997.Women's Labour and Migration: The Case of the Santhals, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 32, No. 50 (Dec. 13-19,), pp. 3187-3189
Bengal District Gazetteers: Manbhum, Calcutta
  • H Coupland
Coupland, H.1911.Bengal District Gazetteers: Manbhum, Calcutta, p-2.
The struggle for forest control in Jungle Mahals of West Bengal 1750-1990
  • Profenburger Mark
Mark, Profenburger.1999. The struggle for forest control in Jungle Mahals of West Bengal 1750-1990. In Village Voices, Forest Choices (eds) Profenburger, Mark and MacGean, B. OUP, New Delhi.p-137.