[Reader-list] sixth posting Migrant workers on the IT corridor

venkat t venkatt2k at gmail.com
Fri Aug 31 21:07:15 IST 2007

Sixth posting: Migrant workers on the IT corridor

The work on the IT expressway, which had been slackened for a few
months has hastened. There is once again feverish activity on the road
itself with large complex machines black topping large sections of the
road. Though not a single KiloMeter has been completed since the first
phase was commissioned more than a year ago, there has been some
momentum in the pace of the work.

We had raised some questions in the previous posting and I would like
to take it from there. Why don't the migrant workers agitate for a
better living and working conditions? Apart from the reasons that we
pointed out in the last posting, there is also a clear attitude and
perception among the workers. Many have come here to clear debts back
in their native place; some have come here to earn money to build
houses in their villages, or for a marriage etc. As one of the
contractors we spoke to said "we are here to work hard and earn money,
we will spend it in our village." This being the attitude the workers
are prepared to endure any hardship to earn a few rupees more.

But this said when things go out of the hand, they agitate
spontaneously. The only form of agitation that they know is to refuse
to go to work. in almost all the places that we have interacted, there
have been times when they have struck work, mostly for water, fire
wood and electricity.

The Pressing need for day care centers and multi lingual primary schools:

There is no statistics on the number of children who have come along
with the families of the migrant workers. But as far as we have seen,
every site we have visited has upward of 20 children in critical need
of day care and primary education. As the parents go to work, the
children are left to fend for themselves. This poses a serious threat
to the safety and security of the children. Though they are very much
alive to these dangers, material conditions do not allow them to take
care of their children. Thus there is genuinely founded fear about
abductors and kidnappers. The children are also vulnerable to
criminals and anti social elements. The most unfortunate element is
the fact that almost all the children had access to primary schools in
their villages. Many of the older children had been in schools before
they were brought here. But they have no scope for any sort of
schooling as most of the companies have not bothered to look into this
aspect. While there are a few NGOs that have taken up this task, they
are too few to make any real change. The problem is compounded by the
fact that there are children of different lingual backgrounds. A boy
from srikakulam, whose mother and brother have come to work on the IT
corridor, said "I wanted to be a master or a doctor when I was in
school. I studied till the sixth grade, but my father expired and we
had to come here to work. There is no school here, I take up odd jobs;
other wise I play with the kids most of the time." Entire districts
have been emptied of its workforce and robbed of its children. Many of
the children have resigned to their fate. They know that their
childhood is over and that they do not have any better opportunities
than their parents. What is ironic is that this is the state of
affairs on a corridor that is considered a Knowledge corridor. We
would be ruining the lives of generations to come if we fail to
address such issues. Can the country afford to fail to tap the talents
and resources of teeming millions, and continue to depend on the
affluent few who have escaped this desolation? What is the damage that
this endemic illiteracy cause to our social fabric? We could urbanise
our population by destroying agriculture and empting the rural areas
but we are only sowing the seeds of a catastrophe if we fail to
address the concerns of the urban poor of which the migrant
construction workers have become an integral part. The State has to
play a major role in creating the necessary infrastructure and making
the principal employer accountable.


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