Migrant labourers despair over currency spike
New Delhi, Nov 13 (IANS) Dullan Mahto is a labourer from Bihar’s Nawada district who used to earn Rs 300 a day, spending half of it on food. Since the demonetisation five days back, he is virtually starving.
His hands folded, the frail 59-year-old man, whose home is a pavement near the Dr Hedgewar Hospital in east Delhi, despairs that he is now getting no work.
“We used to earn around 300 rupees a day. But we haven’t got any work for three days. We are forced to go hungry,” Mahto told IANS, referring to the severe cash crunch in the city since the government spiked 500 and 1,000 rupee notes on November 8.
Mahto — who says he has no cash with him — is not the only one suffering.
An IANS correspondent who went around parts of Delhi found that many labourers from other states seem to have been hit much more hard than even the lower middle class.
A few said they have no option but to starve or go back to their villages.
According to them, the contractors who used to hire them have said they cannot give them work as they are out of cash. The contractors are saddled with the spiked currency or finding it difficult to get enough 100 rupee notes.
“I have been hungry for two days as we are not getting any work,” moaned Rambhagatji, a migrant labourer from Etawah in Uttar Pradesh.
“Earlier, once in a day or two, some people used to come and offer us food. But this has stopped,” he told IANS. “The government is meant to be for the poor but we are suffering.”
Mahto asked pointedly: “Is this our ‘acche din’ (good days) that (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi had promised? Did we vote him to go hungry? Do we poor have a right to live or not?”
Since the demonetisation was announced to check black money and corruption, hundreds of thousands of people across the country have waited in serpentine queues for hours outside banks and ATMs to either withdraw cash or deposit or exchange their now worthless currency.
Surender Thapa, a labourer from Jharkhand’s Goda district, who too lives on a pavement near the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital in east Delhi, echoed the same complaint — no work, no money.
He wife and four children in his village rely on his income. “As I am unable to earn now, I am tense. What do I do?
“Sometimes I think I will go back (to my village) but I can’t even so that as I have no money to buy a train ticket.”
Even the beggars are feeling the pinch.
Ramdin, who is in his 70s and begs near the Hanuman temple in Connaught Place in the heart of the capital, told IANS: “No one is offering us alms these days.
“Earlier we thought we were the poorest. But it seems everyone has become poor now,” he added.
Delhi is said to be home to over 100,000 migrant labourers who spend their night on the pavements. As it is, they lead a tough life.
Most of them are hoping and praying that the crisis ends soon. Will it?
(Anand Singh can be contacted at email@example.com)