This Labour Day, spare a thought for the silent hands that build and drive our city

For more than 17 years, some 20,000 labourers, masons and architects toiled to build a mausoleum on the banks of the Yamuna in Agra. A separate colony was established for them near the site. It was called Mumtazabad. The monument they constructed is known as one of the wonders of the world, Taj Mahal. Shah Jahan’s abiding date with love. Yet nobody remembers any of the labours or the masons who left their own signature on the monument in the language they spoke. Some are in Arabic, others Persian, some in Devanagari. Yet nobody remembers them today. Taj is just remembered as an expression of an emperor’s love for the queen.

The mind goes back to those faceless labourers on this May Day which is often reduced to just a token celebration in many parts of the city. The labourers still sweat it out without practically any rights; be it the push-cart labourers in Khari Baoli or those glazed faces and sweat-covered bodies at constructions sites. It is not uncommon to see migrant labourers toiling away on the streets and markets of Delhi; men mixing the raw material at upcoming buildings, women leaving their little ones sleeping on a dirty sheet hung by the branches of a tree. Call it an improvised cradle, but it offers little comfort at this time of searing winds, scorching temperatures. Barring a handful like those who work at Metro Rail sites or those at designated places in New Delhi, most adults too usually work bare-headed, bare-footed. Accidents are frequent, compensations perfunctory. And life goes on, Labour Day or no Labour Day.

An IPL match might bring the city to a halt, a political rally might throw all plans by the wayside, but the silent toil of the labourers brings not a tear to anybody’s eyes. They are the creations you and I pretend not to see, yet they are the ones who build all the fancy malls, offices and residential apartments, and shift out as soon as they are complete, to live in another hole. Agony continues.

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