Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee | 15.7.18


Rural Migration

Monsoon-induced rainy season is the major cultivation season, called kharif in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The large farmers in Dhenkanal in Odisha, where I live engage firm labourers to plough, sow and transplant paddy saplings during this time. They are finding it difficult to get firm hands. This problem is growing every passing year, which brings forth another question: why is it becoming increasingly difficult to get firm labourers? Where are they?

There could be two answers. One, living standard of firm labourers has gone up and they no longer want to work as firm labourers; some of them probably have shifted to white colour jobs. Two, they no longer live in villages; they have migrated to cities.

The second answer finds more traction if one considers the fact that urban India is experiencing a huge population growth, whereas the fertility rate in urban areas has plummeted to below replacement level.

Data from the Sample Registration Survey (SRS) shows that since 2006, total fertility rate (TFR) in urban areas has touched two children per woman and from 2010, has fallen below that level. That means there aren’t enough children born in Indian cities to replace the existing population of their parents. For advanced economies, this `replacement rate’ is generally estimated at an average of 2.1. Because of the higher infant mortality rate (IMR) in developing countries, the replacement level fertility rate would be slightly higher and so Indian cities seem to have touched the point where the population would start declining in the absence of migration from rural areas.

But that is not happening. That precisely means that the population growth in urban India is entirely due to rural migration. The firm labourer of Dhenkanal is probably working as daily labour in some big city dreaming of making it big and better if not for himself but for his children. Large scale migration from rural areas is putting huge pressure on the civic amenities and land in urban area. Slums are mushrooming. And in Dhenkanal cultivable land is  lying barren because of the non-availability of firm labourers.

Something needs to be done about it, and fast.


My wife, who turned 50 this year, suffers from hip and knee-ache. My mother, who is 76 does not. My orthopedic doctor friend tells me, this is a common problem. More and more people are now suffering from joint pains, especially knee-ache. He blames it on our taking to seating position instead of squatting position. Sitting on the floor was the norm in Eastern cultures. We used to sit with our legs crossed or squat on the floor for meals, studies and household chores. We used to squat to defecate.  Along with a Western way of life, which made us do most of our works in sitting or standing position and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, we acquired knee problems.

Why?  The muscles and joints in human beings have evolved in a way that you are supposed to work hard and keep them going. The modern lifestyle is largely sedentary, in which joints are not challenged in true sense.  Science says, every joint in our body has synovial fluid. This is a kind of oil that provides nutrition to the cartilage. Two things are required to produce that fluid: movement and compression. It a joint does not go through its full range, if the hip and knees never go past 90 degrees, the joint does not get enough nutrition and starts to degenerate.

So what should we do? Start squatting? Discard western style lavatories? Eat in squatting position. Doctor’s advice: Don’t rush and don’t overdo anything if you are already suffering from knee pain. If you do not have these problems do exercise your joints, especially knee and hip. Otherwise, like my wife you’ll have to wear a huge ugly-looking belt.



As I write this column, everybody around me and their uncle and aunty are discussing football in general and world cup in particular. As the tournament favourites Brazil and Argentina lost, many people I know went into depression. My friend Nabaghana’s niece went into deep depression when Portugal lost. No, she was not a Football aficionado, neither was she a huge fan of Portugal; she was a fan of Ronaldo. She recovered only when she saw the photograph of Ronaldo holidaying with his girlfriend after the team lost. She is no longer a Ronaldo fan. Her new icon is Kylian Mbappe of France.

I find less number of people on morning walk rounds as most of them watch football late into the night and wake up late. I find wives of these football-crazy men in foul mood. However, the silver line is many of the women are becoming football fan and watching the game including my wife, whom I initiated into the game. I’ll tell you- how, later.


Tailpiece 1: Lessons to learn from ‘Thai Cave Rescue’


1) Neither the identity of the children has been divulged nor are their families hounded for exclusive interviews by media channels

2) The government is not self-glorifying

3) The opposition is not politicizing the issue either.

If this happened in India we would have

  1. Media interviewing everybody including the cave bats.
  2. BJP and Cong would argue in Arnab Goswami Show
  3. The top search in google would be on caste and religion of the trapped boys.
  4. Coach would have been crucified already after media trial
  5. Elon Musk would have signed a deal with India Govt on the submarine
  6. The doctors treating the boys would have been beaten


Tailpiece 2: Karma


Raj Kapoor made Nargis famous. And now Nargis’s son, Sanjay Dutt made Raj Kapoor’s grandson Ranbir Kapoor famous.

This is return of Karma

(Courtesy: Social Media)

Mrinal Chatterjee, a journalist –turned media academician lives in Central Odisha town of Dhenkanal. He also writes fiction. English translation of his Odia novel Shakti and compilation of his columns Window Seat have just been published.

[email protected]