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Family time for migrant labourers

A.D. Balasubramaniyan
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‘Pongal’ gives them opportunity to reunite with their kin

It is time for migrant labourers to bond with friends and relatives of their village. Some of them are playing cricket at Polakkunam near Tiruvannamalai.
It is time for migrant labourers to bond with friends and relatives of their village. Some of them are playing cricket at Polakkunam near Tiruvannamalai.

‘Pongal’ is more than a festival for migrant labourers working in Bangalore or Chennai. The festival provides them an opportunity to reunite with their family, gives them time for fun and chat with old friends.

Agriculture labourers lured by construction industry in Bangalore and Chennai had migrated to cities. Lack of employment in rural northern Tamil Nadu, and poor wages led to their exodus. Many houses in rural areas of northern Tamil Nadu have at least one of their sons or daughters working in Bangalore or Chennai. ‘Pongal’ is a festival they eagerly await to come back home.

R. Shivram (25) of Polakkunam village near Tiruvannamalai, who is working as a site supervisor in a fabric unit in Bangalore, said he enjoyed this festival more than anything else. “I played cricket with my friends, spent time chatting with my folks and had a great time.”

On how it feels to be back in his village, he said, “I have completed only Plus-Two, but I am earning Rs.10,000 a month, unthinkable in Tiruvannamalai or Chennai. Apart from money, Bangalore has a very pleasant climate. You won’t feel tired even if you work for long hours, unlike in Tiruvannamalai. We work for six days a week and on every seventh day, we play cricket and volleyball. Our skills are being well recognised over there, where as only educational qualification counts here. Despite all advantages, I feel bad that I have to leave behind my family and live alone. ‘Pongal’ gives me a lot of happiness. It feels great to be here in my village, see my old friends and relatives.”

Ramprasath, another migrant labour from the same village, said he stays in Bangalore with 10 people of his age group, all from his village. “We get updates on our village and happenings often. But I still miss my place,” he said.

Thirumalai has eight siblings with every brother working in a different town. He is working as construction labourer in Chennai and earning Rs.600 a day. “It gives enormous pleasure to see all my siblings during ‘Pongal.’ I decided to come back to the village as I could earn even Rs.500 a day here in the construction industry,” he added.

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