The bonded labour system may have been banned in the country, but labourers employed to lay Raja Marga work under conditions which border on the system.
They work on beautification of roads and pavements adjoining Mysore Palace. As many as 30 men and women, hailing from Mahbubnagar district in Andhra Pradesh, have been working as construction helpers for six months.
But unlike labourers elsewhere, they are not paid wages weekly or monthly. Instead, just like in bonded labour system, the person who has brought them here has paid them a certain amount of money in advance. The labourers will repay it by working.
The labourers said they have to work for eight and half hours every day with half an hour break for lunch. The foreman provides them food three times a day and space at an under-construction parking complex on the Town Hall premises.
Venkatesh and Bharatamma, a couple in their 50s, were in dire need of money to repay a loan which they had raised during difficult times.
The foreman gave them `50,000 to repay the loan and asked both of them to work for him for eight months to clear the debt.
One day of work means repayment of `100. This works out far cheaper for contractors as otherwise they need to shell out almost double the money towards wages. The only way that they get money during the period’ is by working overtime.
They get `100 in hand for six and half hours of overtime duty. Venkatesh’s son and daughter in-law Manyam and Ravalamma who too have been paid `50,000 in advance, said they have no job or even drinking water facility in Mahbubnagar and hence chose to migrate.
Their three small children aged 2-4 years play in an area where decorative stone pillars are stacked, thus exposing them to risk.
Another worker Ramu said it’s common for the people of Mahbubnagar to migrate to places like Hyderabad and Mangalore in search of job.
Though they get rice at `1 a kg in Andhra Pradesh, the scheme has not been able to hold them back.
“What can we do with just rice? says Ramu. Sundays, general holidays and even May Day make no difference to these labourers as they are always at work. They go back home during Deepavali or for weddings of their children and will be back to work after a month or two.
Corporation Commissioner P G Ramesh said the corporation has nothing to do with it as they are getting the works by floating tenders.
Asked whether they have not set conditions with regard to wages and other labour benefits while assigning the works, he aswered in the negative.
Assistant Commissioner Basavaraju said he will direct the Assistant Labour Commissioner to look into the matter and said measures will be taken to send the labourers back if they are found working like bonded labourers.