Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Samudra Gupta Kashyap - Heart wrenching tale of migrants labourers in govt projects

Golori is from Adiguda village in Koraput district, Orissa, and speaks only broken Hindi, but it is the only way he can communicate with the workers with him — from states across India such as Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Over 3,000 labourers, 80 per cent of them migrants, are at work on a 210-km broad gauge line from Lumding in Nagaon district to Silchar in Barak Valley in Assam, through the Barail mountains, over 500 metres above sea level. Scheduled to be operational by March 31, 2015, the line will improve connectivity of Assam to Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura, and will pass through 17 tunnels and over 79 major bridges and 340 minor bridges. 

Golori is employed with Hyderabad-based SSNR Projects Pvt Ltd. Since 2012, he has been supervising the drilling of the rocks. Golori works inside the 1,687-metre-long Tunnel No. 7 for 12 hours a day. As mobile phones can’t be switched on inside, the first thing  he does at the end of the day is call his family to tell them he is safe. For, apart from being one of the more inhospitable territories of the country, Barail mountains is one of the most dangerous places to work in. Besides wild animals and mosquitoes, Golori has to contend with militants. 

Between 2006 and 2009, the Dima Halam Daogo (DHD) and its factions killed at least 70 people and abducted dozens of labourers working on the project, causing the Railways to miss several deadlines. The DHD is now dissolved, but other groups remain. Just two weeks ago, militants killed two locals. “My family was very worried about me shifting to Assam. I call them every day,” says Golori, who has three sons, aged 16, 12 and 6 years. 

The family has a small plot of land on which they grow rice and vegetables. Golori could not study beyond Class IX because of poverty and has ensured all his three sons attend school. “I wanted to become an Army jawan. But poverty and fate made me a miner,” he says. It is his 23rd year of working that has taken him across the country — to a limestone mine in Maharashtra, a hydroelectric power project site in Uttarakhand, and to a tunnel site on the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. 

“Assam is my riskiest assignment till date,” he says. In the category of “skilled workman” now, he earns Rs 650 a day for an eight-hour shift, and Rs 600 more for putting in extra four hours. Because of the risk, Golori’s company doesn’t allow workers to leave the camp they live in after duty hours. “There is nothing here for entertainment, except watching TV,” he says.

Golori lives with 42 other workmen in the makeshift barrack made of tin sheets and timber planks just outside the tunnel’s northern entrance. The company provides free food and accommodation. The Territorial Army provides security to the men. “We go out shopping in a group with security personnel accompanying us,” Golori says. Golori last visited his family in June, and will not get any more leave now. The first train is scheduled to run on the track by April 2015... read more:

see also
Rashmi Singh - Migrant Workers in the Kashmir Valley

Labour matters