Migrant labourers doomed

In Lucknow

Supreme Court’s tough stand on the construction of statues, parks and memorials after Dalit icons by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati with public money, may have delighted the environmentalists. But, for the thousands of migrant labourers, the abrupt stoppage of construction activities has come as a shock as it brought them on the brink of starvation.
Taking advantage of the ‘panic reaction’ by the authorities, unscrupulous contractors did not pay the outstanding wages of the hapless labourers, leaving them in the lurch.

The migrant workers, mainly from Rajasthan, suddenly found themselves on the road with nowhere to go as construction activities came to a halt following the apex court’s orders on the afternoon of September 11 last.

Homeless, penniless

The labourers and their families, for whom the construction sites doubled as homes, were forced out from the sites in a hurry and many of them could not get time even to pack their bags.

“Within an hour, we were pushed out of the sites by the security guards. Many of our colleagues lost their tools inside the premises”, said Arjun, a resident of Rajasthan.
Arjun, who leads a group of migrant labourers, claimed that the contractor owed him over Rs Five lakh in wages. “I have no idea when I will get the money”, he said.

Another labourer from Rajasthan, Nirbhai, who leads a group of 42 labourers, also claimed that he owed Rs Seven lakh from the contractor.

“We cannot go back to Rajasthan till we get our dues”, Nirbhai said. To make matters worse, the city was lashed by heavy rains on the night of September 11 as a result of which the families of the labourers,  including women and children, had to suffer great hardship.

The statues, parks and memorials may be an issue for the politicians and an even bigger issue for the courts, for the migrant labourers, they were only a means to earn their livelihood.

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