The Migrant Workers in Big Cities – People Without a Safety Net!


A year of hectic activity in 2009! Thanks to all the commitments of the Commonwealth Games of 2010 and various other projects like the Metro construction a vast number of migrant workers have been employed in various capacities. These workers usually come from the interior states like Bihar and West Bengal. They live at the construction safety net sites and make a living on a day to day basis – working in various risky and dangerous work environments.

However their lives are a depressing tale. Having no safety net around them they are like falling meteors burning out in the scorching atmosphere of fast paced development. They take immense risks with their health and well being, sometimes to the extent of losing their lives in accidents that could have easily been avoided. They are brought here by the contractors for cheap labor and then discarded without a second though when their life force is spent. Often these workers die very young, barely in their thirties, from various diseases and respiratory problems.

So how do the contractors get away with all this? Here are a few reasons how the contractors get away with treating these workers more like new-world slaves!

  • Absence of a regulatory mechanism for their proper terms of employment. Although the laws exist on paper they are rarely checked for implementation. The Administration casts a blind eye to these discrepancies as long as the contracted service is delivered in time. Only in the case of specific complaints will they act against errant contractors.
  • No support group for these workers. Since these workers come from outside Delhi they are unable to interface with most of the Delhi based worker support groups and NGOs. In fact that is one important reason why the labor contractors hire these hands. They are sure they will not get any trouble from the labor unions as these workers are not in touch with the unions.
  • Willingness on the part of the workers to take risks – due to the lack of education or awareness. Since these workers are mostly illiterate they are manipulated by the contractors to sign various documents giving sweeping rights to the labor contractors. No body is around to read to them the clauses in the documents.

The migrant workers are becoming the casualty of rapid development schedules. Very soon a vast number of these workers will become disabled as they lose their health and limbs in hazardous work conditions. Eventually when no further value can be obtained from them, they are sent back to the villages to spend the rest of their lives in utter poverty.

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