TIRUCHY: Unlike other years, there was hardly anything to celebrate this Labour Day, according to workers in Tiruchy. Most of them are jobless, many complaining of scarce opportunities and they all said these are the darkest of days they have ever seen. With all businesses shut, except a few associated with essential services, the pandemic and lockdown have dearly cost labourers in Tiruchy.
For S Subramani, a handcart puller working near Gandhi Market, his earnings during the lockdown are barely enough for even basic needs. "On regular days, there are more shops open and we would always have items to transport - from lorries to shops to sheds. Now we can only work till 1 pm and there are also very few shops open." He said on good days they earn as much as Rs.500, but now, they barely make Rs. 250 a day.
The loadmen near the market also have it bad. GK Ramar, secretary of the CITU-affiliated Loadmen Association, said, "Many loadmen work at the lorry booking office. There are as many as 45 offices where nearly 500 persons used to work. Now, just 10 offices involved in transporting essential items are open. Due to this, many are left without work and even those working have their earnings halved as they have less to do."
Labourers dependent on sectors that are inactive during lockdown, said they had no clue on how to survive past it. Construction worker, C Selvakumar, who does centering and bar bending, said, "The Rs 2,000 and rations provided by the government have already run out. No one was prepared for this scenario. Many labourers are from villages. Even if we do not have work in urban areas, there is also nothing to do in villages. We cannot buy paint or cement to even do petty jobs."
Some are trying their hand at other business, like auto driver Padhmanaban from Mutharasanallur. He has taken up buying and selling muskmelons and watermelons on the streets of Tiruchy. "I do not earn much, not even Rs. 200 a day. But I also cannot sit idle at home. There are four in my family and I have nothing in terms of savings."
Railway station porters are he worst affected. "There is nothing to celebrate this day. I have been a porter for as long as I can remember. Now, I have no means of earning and feeding my family. I have also not paid any bills," said M Ganapathy a porter at Tiruchy Railway Junction. He said, "In normal times, I used to work once in two days. Sixteen of us porters work alternate days in two batches. Each working day we used to get not more than Rs. 500, so, there is no savings or other money we can spend from now."
The labourers asked for continued support from the government, considering the initial welfare measures were only for the first lockdown period. Those labourers associated and dependent on private businesses asked for their proprietors to provide them financial support.