For forty-five-year old Raju, a resident of Bhovi colony in Thyagarajnagar, the going has been tough during the last three weeks. With absolutely no income to feed his family of three, he has been borrowing from his neighbours, and from local money lenders at very high rates of interest.
Raju is among the several lakhs of construction workers across the State whose lives have gone haywire owing to the sand transporters strike, which entered its 20th day on Thursday.
“Some good neighbours, who work in other sectors, have come to our rescue. But, we are more dependent on neighbourhood money lenders, who charge us hefty interest. For every Rs. 1,000 that we borrow, the money lender gives us only Rs. 800. We have to return Rs. 100 every week for ten weeks,” said Raju whose 18-year-old son is also a construction worker.
Initially, he said, when the strike began there was some work. “But it totally dried up after a week and we had to return home from the construction site empty handed since there was no sand,” he said. Earlier this week, the Karnataka State Building and other Construction Workers Federation staged a protest in the city, seeking the State government’s intervention to end the impasse.
The agitators urged the government to find a solution to the strike, which is set to intensify from the midnight of January 11 when most transport and commercial vehicles will go off the road indefinitely in support of the sand transporters’ demand.
There are at last eight lakh workers dependent on the construction industry across the State, including a lakh of them in Bangalore, who have gone without work for over two weeks now, said B.N. Raghu, a federation leader.
According to him, while many are trying to get odd jobs in other sectors, a large number of them have returned home.