Migrant workers in Haryana worry about rent and wages

Migrant workers from Bihar feel they will not be able to survive in the village if the lockdown is extended.

Updated - December 03, 2021 06:34 am IST

Published - April 06, 2020 10:06 pm IST - KASAN (HARYANA)

Migrant labourers and their families at Kasan village in Haryana.

Migrant labourers and their families at Kasan village in Haryana.

Most workers who lived in Kasan village, which abuts the Manesar industrial township, have left for home.

Only those from Bihar remain in Kasan. It was far too long to walk to their villages in Bihar. Their colleagues from Uttar Pradesh were luckier – their homes were closer. So they left and the workers from Bihar had to stay back.

The Maruti factory, industrial India’s shining jewel, is about a kilometre away.

Many of the workers live in rows of rooms, akin to “lines” in tea gardens, a colonial gift to India’s working people. Three or four people occupy tiny rooms. They are surrounded by open drains. Flies are constant companions.

The rooms have a “ chatai” (mat), some clothes and knapsacks similar to those carried by the lakhs of migrant workers who foot marched their way home after the March 24 lockdown. They all look similar — the rooms and their belongings.

Kundan Kumar Mahto, clad in shorts and banyan (vest) and wearing a mask of sorts on his face, is from Saran district in Bihar. “I have a stark choice... either I starve here, or in my village. We don’t know whether we will get our jobs back once the lockdown lifts.”

Migrant workers and their long march to uncertainty

Mahto has been paid ₹6,100, instead of the monthly ₹9,025 he makes working for a contractor that supplies workers for a well-known online shopping firm. “My wages since March 23 have been cut. I won’t be paid till April 14 at least. God knows what will happen after that,” he tells The Hindu.

 

Amit Kumar is from Chhapra, also in Bihar. “I would have gone home had there been any transport available. I would have preferred a bus; trains are too dangerous in such a time. Just too many people in our trains.”

Like Mahto, Kumar is waiting for the lockdown to end .

Mahto and other workers in Kasan said they cooked separately earlier, but had now started a community kitchen. “It saves time and resources. We have been provided some ration by the Workers Unity, a YouTube channel. For vegetables, we pool the money,” they say.

Shivaji, who works with an automotive company, said he tried to return to his village in Bihar last Sunday, but the police had sealed the borders by then. The 23-year-old said he worked for 16 days, but was paid only for eight days. “Only ₹3,900 has been credited to my salary account on Monday,” said Shivaji.

Another bunch of workers in the village, mostly working in garments units in the industrial area, fear the lockdown would be extended further. “We are still not sure whether the company would pay us for the lockdown period. It will not be possible for us to pay rent and survive if the lockdown is extended. It is better if the government sends us to our native villages,” said Ramesh, 47, staying in one of the “line rooms” of Kasan.

Many workers told us that they get the minimum wage paid by the Haryana government. If the company pays the contractor, then only he will release our wages to us, several of them said.

Their future is locked in with the lockdown.

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