Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)
As restrictions ease, migrants’ struggle to find work continues
NEW DELHI: Dinesh Rathore from Muzaffarpur in Bihar returned to Delhi nearly after two and a half months of staying in his native village during the lockdown in the national capital amid the rising Covid cases in April.
“I am the sole bread earner of my family. There are younger brothers and parents back at home to feed. All my savings, from my daily wages of ₹300 wages, were over during this year’s lockdown,” says Rathore.
As lockdown restrictions have started easing in many migrant worker receiving states such as Goa, Mumbai, Delhi, workers have begun returning in search of work.
“Our village has hundreds of people who come to Delhi for work. We heard that work would resume by May-end so I returned with my brother, hoping to find work. But there is really no work here. For 10 days, we have been approaching different factories to give us work. I am skilled at iron smithing and welding work as well, but they are not allowing strangers to enter the factories,” he says.
Another migrant labourer, Pavan Sahni, who belongs to Poornia in Bihar, returned to Neemrana in Rajasthan where he worked earlier, but he says not much has changed. With a wife and three kids to support, Sahni earlier sold ice-creams that a local factory gave him along with a refrigerated cart. He got paid ₹2 rupees per piece sold. “I used to earn over ₹400 a day but people are now wary of buying food from small-time vendors like me and the police also don’t allow us to station the cart in streets, leave alone major roads,” he says.
“There is a place called
Labour Chowk here where migrant workers assemble in the morning and people looking for labourers hire them for ₹300 a day. My friend and I got work only twice,” he says
Sahni adds there has been a rush of labourers to the chowk as the news of police allowing labourers to wait for work] spread. “I am jobless again. These ₹600 rupees are all that I have earned since I came back for work. I could not even earn enough to pay for the rent of the room where my family stays,” he says. Gulzar Ahmad from Jharkhand had also returned home from Goa as the state imposed a lockdown in April. Most of the labourers in his village worked in Goa as labourers and housekeeping staff in hotels but now, they are choosing to go to other states, not Goa.
“Since the lockdown, not many tourists are going there and most of the hotels are closed. Some of my friends left for Hyderabad yesterday as someone assured them on the phone that he needed workers. They are not sure about it but it is better to search than stay idle or even go to Goa where everything is shut,” he said.
Gayatri Sahgal from Stranded worker action network (SWAN), a volunteer group working for migrant workers, says that the government has been negligent and has been giving false assurances of support to them.
A labour ministry spokesperson admitted to HT that there have been complaints from workers who are unable to find work despite easing of lockdown curbs and that most factories are refusing to let them in, but the government was yet to chalk out plans to address the issue. There also no response from Central Labour Commissioner DPS Negi on how the government plans to re-integrate these workers.