Wages, food, only agenda of migrant labourers

Wages, food, only agenda of migrant labourers

Most of them have no plans of exercising their franchise

“What election you people are asking about? We are waiting for the contractor to get two week’s pending wages. Then only we can send money to village,” frowned Abdusalam, a native of Karandighi in West Bengal who has been into construction labour at MRPL since two years. 

Salam along with 20 others, all from Bengal are living in a three-room asbestos roofed building at Meenakaliya on the fringes of MRPL in absolute abysmal conditions. His response was to the query this correspondent posed whether they are going to native place to cast vote, a question which seems out-of-pace in such a deprived situation. 

It is far off imagination how these 20 men were put up in these three congested rooms with each room can boast of  tiny ventilation only. S K Tajamulla, another Bengali told that wife of Congress leader Priyaranjandas Munshi, Deepa Dasmunshi is the Congress candidate in Raigunj constituency under which his name is in electoral rolls.

Neither the election date nor the names of other candidates are known to any of them. “We are not going. It will make a huge hole of Rs 1000 in our pocket for a to-and-fro journey,” Tajamulla clarified.  

Manifesto of bread and butter

Adjacent to them, is a group from Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh with children and women among them. The ‘home’ of Andhrites is a small cover-up made of tarpaulin sheet which cannot withstand even a breeze.

If one has to enter, it will need an aerobatic expertise to sneak in. The open cooking on the land and the logging of waste water has made the place filthy, fit enough to invite epidemics.

Of the seven children in the group, three school going children are now out of the school to eke out a living. “We have to reach home on Monday for Ugadi. Hence, we are eagerly waiting for the contractor to clear the dues,” said Marappa, aged 36 in his brazen voice.

They have been in Mangalore since 2011 at regular intervals for doing odd jobs at MRPL or Kudremukh Iron Ore Company. 

Ask about whether they have heard about ‘minimum wages,’ ‘medical insurance’ or ‘child labour,’ a firm ‘no’ will be the reply. They have been getting Rs 300 on working days, with which they are a happy lot and don’t desire for more ‘luxury’ is the one lesson they have learnt in life.

As election comes along with Ugadi, they have planned to vote. When asked about Andhra bifurcation, Marappa responded that they are against it as Rayalaseema, the region which he belongs to will lost hold of Hyderabad. 

Santhosh Kumar Sahu, a 26-year-old welder from Nayagarh district of Odisha whom Deccan Herald met at Koorikatta in Panabur said election has nothing to do with his plans and he was not going home either.

Isthkar Khan, from Jharkhand who is an excavator operator at Mangalore harbour too echoed similar opinion. He and his family are least bothered about the electoral process in the world's largest democracy. 

‘Amma beckons’

But the case with a number of Tamilians at Bunder is entirely different. “We are eagerly counting days to go home to caste vote for ‘Amma’, beams Lakshmi, a native of Kallakurichi near Salem. Amma refers to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalitha.

“Amma had provided us bicycle, laptops, plenty of rice, goats...all free,” explained Hemavalli. Then why you are slogging it out here? “We have neither industry nor sea related jobs there. Agriculture is the only sustenance,” she replied.

The entire female group are into cleaning fish and they charge Rs 40 for cleaning a box of fish. But several women have the headache of their better halves contributing nothing to support the family and a few indulging in trivial issues also. Still, after a hard toiled day, smiles keep their faces alive with that indomitable spirit.

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