It is alienation that plagues the migrant labourers - The New Indian Express

It is alienation that plagues the migrant labourers

Published: 06th December 2012 10:17 AM

Last Updated: 06th December 2012 10:17 AM

Somu, hailing from a remote district in Orissa, and Sheik Muhammed from Midnapore, West Bengal, have almost similar life histories. Born and brought up in lower peasantry in eastern India, they witnessed the destruction of petty production in agriculture that pauperised their social class.

Deep financial stranglehold and stories of peasant suicides created an unprecedented uncertainty in their lives.

They got into touch with a jobber, hunting cheap labour for the industrialists who are reshaping the face of the city. Both, along with some of their ‘gaav vaala’ (co-villagers) migrated to the city in hope of a better life.

They spoke to Express on the premises of Priyadarshini Hall, Kakkanad, where the  cultural and health camp for migrant workers  ‘Hum Mithr’ was organised jointly by district panchayat, district Labour Department and the  district Health Department. They were afraid about the surveillance of their supervisors and were reluctant to open up.

“In Orissa, I get just Rs 100. Here, I am able to earn Rs 200,” said Somu. “I get Rs 250 a day,”  said Muhammed.

Both the labourers do the same amount of work at the same work site for the same employer. So normally, both should get equal pay. But a detailed enquiry tells that workers get different wages for the same work depending on the bargaining power and social contacts. Some employers also make use of the ignorance of the labourers and engage them to work overtime at a meagre pay.

More interaction with them threw light on their social life. “I never used to drink alcohol in Orissa. But I have taken to drinking now,” Somu said. When asked why, he said, “I feel lonely. I also feel very tired after work”.

Many workers find solace in alcohol and unsafe sex as a way out. This is evident from alarming health quotient of the migrants as explained by the medical experts and some NGOs that work among the labourers.

An NGO activist who has surveyed around 25,000 workers in the Perumbavoor industrial belt said that a considerable number of workers are in the danger zone. “Around 7,000 workers come under the high risk category for venereal diseases,” he said. The statistics are almost similar for the Ernakulam-Kochi industrial belt. A detailed investigation reveals that of late, some employers are bringing sex workers from the same regions that the migrant labourers hail from.

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