PATNA, Oct. 25 -- A decade ago, farmer Rameshwar Bhagat left Barachhati in Bihar's Gaya district for Ghaziabad, on the outskirts of New Delhi, to work in a bangle factory. Life was good until the Covid-19 pandemic left him jobless, forcing him to return home in the hope of finding a local job in the region that was once a Maoist hub.

Left-wing extremism has declined and the sight of Maoist rebels moving around the hills with guns is rare, but jobs are as elusive to find as they ever were, he found. Farming is a challenge because a pyne (artificial rivulets led off from rivers for irrigation purposes) that used to run through Bhagat's field dried up three year ago. "Left with no option, I rented a borewell to carry water to my field for cul...