‘Why would we come here again, but forced to go looking for a living’

The group of migrant workers outside the Gautam Buddha Nagar DM’s office on Tuesday.  

“No one listens to the poor man,” said 16-year-old Ramkishor outside the Gautam Budhha Nagar District Magistrate’s office on Tuesday. While he said he has that figured out, he was there waiting for someone to help him and his family out of the bonded labour situation.

Ramkishor, his parents and two younger siblings, who are from Lalitpur in Uttar Pradesh, along with three other families from Sagar in Madhya Pradesh said they had been working without pay at a construction site in Aicher village in Greater Noida for the past two months.

Payments stopped

The payment of small amounts every few days, sometimes ₹500 or ₹1,000, for expenses also stopped about 20 days ago and the contractor went missing, says Ramkishor’s mother, Haribai.

The group of workers had been hired by a contractor and were working at the private construction site since November. Their principal employer had stopped paying wages two months ago, a complaint to the DM and the police by Badhua Mukti Morcha on May 9 said.

‘Inhuman conditions’

“They are being forced to work in inhuman conditions without wages and any allowance for food, thereby creating a situation of bondage. Further, since the country is facing the second wave of the pandemic, and lockdown is in place, it has created further hurdles for the labourers,” the complaint by Badhua Mukti Morcha general secretary Nirmal Gorana read. On Monday night, the workers said they were asked to leave the site. Girdhari, Ramkishor’s father, said the group had been waiting outside the DM’s office all day on Tuesday, but to no avail.

“We don’t have enough money for food so how will we have enough to travel back home. And even then, what will we do there. No one has heard us out or helped us,” asked Girdhari, who was rescued from another situation of bonded labour about five years ago, according to Mr. Gorana.

He said the workers were owed around ₹20,000-₹25,000 each, being paid ₹400 to ₹500 a day.

Ramkishor added that the group had worked under the hot sun for two months, with the children also asked to assist. He said he last attended school “before the lockdown”, referring to the national lockdown imposed by the government in March 2020.

“Why would we ever come back here? We have seen now what it is like here. But there is nothing in the village for us; we wouldn’t have left if there was an option. We will go wherever we have to earn a living,” he said.

The workers said they had been waiting for some relief — food, money to return home and their wages — all day. Ramkishor said someone had offered them “biscuits”. An official at DM Suhas LY’s office said relief would be given to the group soon when contacted on Tuesday evening, as the workers remained camped outside.

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Printable version | Jun 17, 2021 10:23:00 AM |

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