A safe night shelter is all that Dulal Iman and friends, belonging to West Bengal, searched for several months. And, finally, they found the right place, which Gomathy and Narayanan rented out. It was just 5 cents of land, where 50 workers now live in several tents.
Dulal is one among the hundred labourers who were removed from the temporary tents set up near Kazhakkoottam after the construction work of an apartment was over. While most of them had spent their nights at the railway station and some even rented rooms, which they could hardly afford, others even had to share their friends’ tents, before finding the 5-cent-piece of land.
Now, in Kazhakkoottam, a new trend has emerged, with local people allotting vacant plots in their possession to the migrant labourers and collecting monthly rent. Each individual has to pay only around Rs 100. This is affordable for the labourers as they occupy a plot as a group, so that they can share the amount.
Many local people decided to give their plots on rent so that they could earn a good amount. This also has another advantage - that they need not spend money on other workers to clean the empty land that they possess. This clicks in the area as Kazhakkoottam is a place where construction works take place on a big scale, where a large number of migrant labourers are engaged. Work contractors at some construction sites have failed to give labourers accommodation and the workers are willing to face all difficulties as they have to feed their families back home.
As far as Narayanan is concerned, he rented out the land as some of the labourers, who had come for some work in his house, asked him for giving some area of the land near his house for some days to stay. They also agreed to give him an amount as rent.
Labourers from other states migrate to Kerala attracted by the relatively higher wages here. Earlier, as the employers used to provide adequate shelter for migrant labourers, there was no need for them to search for a separate shelter, said Narayanan. Like him, there are many more interested in giving out their land for rent to these labourers.
When contacted, Kazhakkottam councillor Sreerekha R said that a few migrant workers who had not registered themselves were found wandering in the city. ‘’It is they who use footpaths, pavements and bus shelters to sleep at night. Despite earning a reasonable wage, they prefer sleeping in such open spaces,’’ she said. Some of the contractors whom Express spoke to refused to comment on the issue.