Every hartal a nightmare

Deprived of a day’s wages, some migrants also go starving

Published - January 04, 2019 12:54 am IST - KOCHI

Workers from Theni in Tamil Nadu idling at Kaloor Junction after the hartal rendered them jobless on Thursday.

Workers from Theni in Tamil Nadu idling at Kaloor Junction after the hartal rendered them jobless on Thursday.

Sitting in front of a shuttered shop at the largely-deserted Kaloor Junction, Kannan was listening to an old Tamil song blaring from his pocket-sized mobile phone on Thursday afternoon.

Beside him sat Kumar, Pandi, Raju and Ramaswamy, listening to the song and breaking into occasional chatter. Residents of Theni in Tamil Nadu, they had all moved to Kochi four months ago in search of better prospects.

Since then, every hartal has been a nightmare for them and much to their discomfort, there had been quite a few. “We had tea in the morning when a few eateries were open. Despite having money we will now have to go starving till the hartal is over,” said Kannan.

So, what do they do besides listening to music? “We keep a watch on the vehicles passing along,” said Kumar with barely-concealed sarcasm. Then there was drama between police and protesting activists there, which was good timepass for a while, added Pandian.

While hartal impacts everyone, those in the unorganised sector, especially the footloose migrants, are the worst-hit. “For a community that looks to work and earn all through their waking hours, being deprived of a full day’s wages is very disturbing. Besides, they may also get stranded and have to go starving,” said Benoy Peter, executive director, Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development.

Rajendra Naik, hailing from Kandhamal district in Odisha, spent the day in his small dwelling at Perumbavoor, fearing rampant violence reported on news channels. “Back in Odisha, a hartal may take place once or twice a year. In fact, I wasn’t even aware of it till I reached here,” said Naik, who moved here 18 years ago.

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