Chennai's daily-wage workers in desperate search for work after demonetisation

The ban on high-value notes has taken a heavy toll on daily wage earners, depriving them of adequate work and payment.​

Published: 28th November 2016 02:15 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th November 2016 03:39 AM   |  A+A-


With no customers, a vegetable vendor finds time to make calls |ASHWIN PRASATH

By Express News Service

CHENNAI: Demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currencies seems to have taken a heavy toll on daily wage earners with absence of adequate work and payment and limited access to banking having a cumulative effect on them.

Old migrants and pavement dwellers who mostly work on short-term need-based contracts for construction companies have been facing three major problems after  currencies in the two denominations became defunct - non-availability of adequate work, lack of payment and limited access to banking.

The fear of being unable to provide cash for workers has brought several construction sites to a standstill. At 10 am, Egattur, a village along Old Mahabalipuram Road, where nearly 100 Telugu migrant families from Srikakulam stay, is unusually active.

On a regular day, members of all families leave home by six in the morning to their construction sites. “They offer work if we are willing to accept old notes. When we refused to receive them, we were not given work for the last few days,” said Sarojini, 40, a construction worker.
At Ayanavaram in the city, Lalitha (31), a pavement dweller, doesn’t have a different story to narrate. Along with seven other families, she sits on the pavement opposite the bus depot on Anderson Road waiting for masons to hire them. If lucky, they will have work for three or four days.
Payment and banking problems

Most migrants at Egattur don’t have bank accounts in the city. They will have to go back to their village to withdraw money. The contractor usually transfers money to a mason who has an account in the city and the mason will have to withdraw and distribute money among labourers who work in his team. “I was allowed to withdraw only Rs 10,000 from the bank and all were Rs  2,000 currencies. I found it difficult to pay the labourers,” said Gopi (42), a senior mason. However, daily wage workers  find it hard to survive on Rs 1,000 a week. Workers at both places lament that the government has been insensitive to the poor and that it should pump in more Rs 500 currencies in the market.


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