BHUBANESWAR: When his elder son left for Surat in June to work as a contract labourer in a company, sexagenarian Surendra Rout, a construction worker at Andirasingh village in Odisha’s Ganjam district was happy that he would supplement the family income.
His happiness was short-lived. Aninda (32), who worked for nearly six months in a factory in Surat, lost his job post-demonetisation. Now, he is back home and without a job. “My son was getting Rs 8,000 a month and he was being paid in cash by his contractor. While he got his salary last month in old notes, the contractor asked him to leave the job when he refused to accept old notes this month,” said Surendra.
With Aninda sitting idle at home, the burden of the sixmember family is on Surendra, who works at a mall construction site near Vanivihar in the city. He too has been a victim of demonetisation, as he is yet to get his wages in new currency. Like others in the site, he was paid in old Rs 500 notes in November. “I had to stand in queues for nearly three hours and lost my day’s wage only to exchange the notes in a bank. This month, the contractor was asking me to take Rs 2,000 notes which I refused.
No shop is taking the big note. Where do I get smaller ones? I do not want to stand in queues again,” he said. Post demonetisation, the migrant labourers are affected the most since their families back home do not have bank accounts and they are unable to send money from their work places. While many have already left their jobs, several others have returned to their respective hometowns to open bank accounts.
Even as data available with the State Labour Department claims that around 18 lakh people migrate from Odisha every year, only 50,000 among them are registered as having bank accounts. The department does not have any record whether others have accounts. There are more than five lakh Odia migrant labourers working in Surat from Ganjam district alone, out of seven lakh labourers from the State. Other districts with high migration rates are Ganjam, Bolangir, Sundergarh, Nuapara and Koraput. The number of labourers migrating to brick kilns annually would be around 10 lakh. According to an estimate, 1.5 lakh people (parents and children) leave Bolangir district every winter on south-bound trains to work in brick kilns.