BENGALURU: A railway contractor in the Bengaluru Railway Division has devised a novel method to ensure basic necessities of his 200 labourers are met in these cash-strapped days. He pays them in kind by buying basic rations using debit or credit cards in supermarkets.
For the last 20 days, B Jagadeeswar, proprietor of N N Constructions, has somehow managed to run the show. Entrusted with construction of railway over bridges, civil works inside railway stations and buildings inside railway quarters, his workforce extends across the state. Bengaluru, Omalur, Hosur, Nelamangala, Kunigal, Tippasandra, Nelamangala and Solur are places where they are presently undertaking contracted jobs.
“I have purchased rice, dal, vegetables and any other necessities the workers require using debit and credit cards in bulk every week. It is impossible for me to pay them now as the wages come to over Rs 10 lakh each fortnight. The permitted withdrawal limit of Rs 24,000 is nowhere near that figure,” Jagadeeswar said.
A worker’s daily wages come to Rs 400 while it touches Rs 600 for a mason, he says. “To help them have some cash, we give Rs 500 to a worker each week from their wages,” he adds.
So how does this work? Those at the supervisory level seem to have donned the role of big time shoppers. The Project Manager at Kunigal, S E Abhiman says, “Every Friday we ask the workers to provide a list of essentials they require. I drive from Bengaluru to Kunigal daily for work. I shop at supermarkets and distribute among the workers.” He takes care of 13 construction sites at Solur, Tippasandra and Kunigal with each site having five or six workers.
Supervisor S Satya at Thyamakundulu, 10km off Dobbespet, says life is much tougher in rural areas. “I am buying essentials on credit from local storekeepers. It is running on trust but I do feel awkward about it,” he says. None of ATMs work here, he adds.
“There is a Tuesday santhe here, in which big local shops take part. I take our team of 14 to shop there,” he informs. He is worried over when this goodwill might evaporate but feels glad they were able to manage under this arrangement for 20 days.
The workforce is a worried lot though. One of the concrete laying workers, Tejash M, a native of Kuppam, says, “My family is dependent on the money I send them. It has been three weeks since I sent them anything.”
Stating it was not just him but many outstation workers who need to send money home, Tejash says, “Every time we ask for money, we are told to wait for some more days. It is frustrating.”