It was a weekend evening and the time for me to sit back at home and relax, and without any attention, I was watching an interview of a village person on one of the most popular Indian TV News Channel called NDTV. The person was from Orissa, one state of India; it was shown that every year from Orissa a substantial amount people are migrating to the other part of India to get a job so that they can live their life.
Maybe a coincidence, I was just thinking about the people working near by my office where another big construction for an IT company was going on… I see them everyday when I go for work; I see them everyday when I come back too… a group of people go on my way. Sometime I hear them what they are talking, sometime I just ignore them.
And I got surprised when I came to know about them in this news channel.
Suddenly it came to my mind that I need to talk to them or may be I need to be with them and understand their difficulties, their problems and their life.
And one morning I met Suraj, a young worker from Bihar in a local branch of a Bank. Suraj means Sun in Hindi. He came here for earning money for his family, for his single membered family, his only mother. He asked me to fill up a form for making a bank draft for his mother. Obviously he does not know English, he has no education background at all, He can only make his signature, and it was not possible for him to go for education because from his earlier age he started earning money for his family.
I met him and he gave me some thought obviously. I met him later at the construction site and talked to him for a long time. And I got know so many people who migrated from other states and are working here. I went to their place so many times after that to learn their lives.
But why they are called migrated worker ? Why do they migrate from their own place to other places? I just wanted to dig the truth and started talking to them to find out the answer…
Poverty and migration always have the correlation in India. Most of the people are getting migrated to the other part of India from the beginning of winter season; may be October or November. This kind of seasonal migration has become the integral strategy of their livelihood for sometimes now. Thousands of people get migrated every year for working as daily wage labourers for their basic need of living, for food.
After the harvest, usually beginning from winter, the villagers who were engaged in paddy field become jobless. I talked with a group of people here, and I came to know most of the people used to plough in the field and crop food. Hardly they will have some opportunities to do at that time. But how many days they can stay like that? Sitting idle in home?? Some of the people may get work in their home state itself but what about thousands of people like that?? They need work; they want money to live their life and let their families live as well. And there is no second thought to leave their houses and village for searching work to the neighbouring states; may be in the construction sites or working in a hotel or Brick Kilns, or weaving or even rickshaw or cart pulling jobs. And this is not a new story, its being repeated every year since 1965.
But what happened after they get migrated for their job here?? Suraj, whom I met for the first time, left his home last year. He does not have any permanent address here. He roams here and there to search some work in the construction sites. He earns very less amount, may be 70 rupees in a Day. But he still has a responsibility to send some amount of money to his home. His mother will be waiting for his money. He has a home to look after too.
Prakash has come from another part of Orissa. He is middle aged person. His family stay at his village still. His wife and one son will be waiting for him to return after his work and with some good money for them. He misses his family very much while staying away from them but he admits he can do nothing better than this. And this is the situation for every year. So his family has admitted the fact.
The lives of these seasonal migrated labourers are miserable in every respect. They do not have a proper place for stay here. I saw their make shift homes (called Jhopdi in local language). They make it with the raw materials used for the construction site mostly. But it is just a place where they can go after they finish their work. It is not a place for sleep at all. I saw some of them sleeping even another side of the construction site itself. I asked them why they stay like that for this whole period? The answer was simple though. They cannot just concentrate on one construction site to work , may be hardly that takes two months , but then what about the rest of the time ?? They need to move to other sites for work again. So they do not make any permanent residence in one fixed place. The nearer you are to the work site the more you can get a job.
And there is another problem with those people here. And the name of the problem is called “Middle man”. The roles of the middle man is to herd the labourers and organized them into small groups and send them to different destinations and that is a mutual need for the employer and the labourers here. The rich industrialist or the contractors need cheap and skilled labours and the poor village people need money at the wrong season. And the middle man acts a role between those two classes of people and gets money from both sometime!! And even from the poor labourers. Sometime the middle man gives loan to the labourers when they need it and in return the labourers work for the middle man just without getting the right amount of money from the employers. It is a kind of vulnerability.
The lives of Suraj or Prakash or Rehman Chacha are the victim of this process sometimes. They have nothing else to do except this. May be Rehman Chacha needed money at the time of his daughters marriage and the middle man had given a loan. It is just not a guess; sometime it is a bare truth. And these ways they are exploited and cause migration.
After getting migrated in every respect they start struggle to survive. A suffocated, dehydrated and sheer exhausted place starts becoming a part of their life. As far as the drinking water is concerned they take the same kind of water which is used in the construction work. A truly unhealthy condition. I met one carpenter at the 7th floor of the construction site once. It was a suffocated place, a very low light condition, my eyes were burning literally and that guy was working from morning till evening. I was just surprised to know that too.
And the last but not the least is minor labourers amongst them. I was going through the government’s action plan against elimination of child labour; and found out that started from 1979 government has formed committees to study the problem and finding out the solutions. In 1988, the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) scheme was launched in 9 districts of high child labour endemic in the country. Lot of initiatives has been taken by so many NGOs. But still it is really a big problem within them.
It is something like they are bound to shape their future in a way which they do not like at all.
I found the life from my perspective; I mixed with them so much and found some different truth too. Some how the have accepted their life like this. They do not have a good insurance policy, they do not have any monitory richness but still the don’t blame to anybody for what they do not have. They seem to be enjoying their life with small hopes which they think they can achieve. They just hope to see their family smiles; they just hope to see their spouse still love them.
And I feel that is the reason why their life is much stronger than ours, so called civilized people.