The stoic look on their face embodies the daily toil they go through within barricades erected on the Kochi Metro corridor, sweating it out even during rains.
And they earn little by Kerala standards — between ₹400 and ₹500 per day, for working on a 12-hour shift amidst dust, slush and the incessant noise of vehicles whizzing past through roads on either side. And it goes to their credit that the migrant workers did not strike work even for a single day during the four years when metro constructions were under way. In comparison, only a small number of their counterparts from the State were part of the workforce.
Around 400 migrant workers engaged in civil and related works in the metro corridor were invited for a 'sadya' organised by KMRL at a hall near MG Road. The migrant labourers from as east as Assam and from Central Indian states were present to savour the sadya. The youth from among them loved Bollywood music which was rendered by two singers arranged by an event-management firm. They also signed/jotted their names, interestingly in English, on a message board kept beside.
Nostalgic of home
Even as the background was rife with songs like ‘ Pehla nasha pehla khumar’ and ‘ Musafir hoon yaaron’ , 19-year-old Mitlesh Kumar from Bihar spoke of how he manages to send home over ₹5,000 per month, to his family comprising five brothers, a sister and parents. “I feel that working in Kochi is worth it since it is greener and beautiful than other Indian cities. I sometimes take a ferry ride in the backwaters with friends,” he said.
Simon from Assam is engaged as a helper in a work site. “The daily grind is hard, but there is no other go. I have to send money to my family which comprises a four-month-old child. The rain has brought some respite from the heat.”
Older workers like Gokul Ram and Moolchand Ram intend to return to Bihar for Durga Pooja. “The sole break we get in between work is one hour for lunch,” they said. When asked whether they catch up with Hindi movies released here, they said they prefer to watch them on cell phones.
Once they got familiar with being in the media glare and camera persons recording them eating and dancing, they took out their cell phones and began to record them being recorded, while swaying to Bolywood dance steps.
“Those who attended the event were just a small group from among the 4,000-odd workers who braved the elements and worked to complete the metro’s 13-km Aluva-Palarivattom corridor in record four years time. They were deployed in work sites and also at casting yards in the suburbs,” said a DMRC official.
It goes to our credit that there were no worker casualties in any work site of the massive infrastructure project, thanks to adherence to strict safety norms. Still, a doctor and ambulance were a call away in all sites. We also have a labour welfare officer on deputation from the Railway, he added.