Working class blues: Aftermath of Demonetisation

(From Archive)Kanhiya Singh

Wazirpur in Delhi, employs thousands of workers, largely migrants from the hinterland, in polishing, loading and unloading, acid washing and hot rolling in steel factories.

With no available supply of valid currency and drastic reduction in work, a massive reverse migration is on with workers trudging back to their rural hearth.IMG_0077

Ashrath worries about his future…?

Nineteen-year-old Ashrath had a few days left in Delhi. His  Garment factory which employed around 25 workers looks like a cemetery after a funeral. “Only two of us are left. All of my co-workers left. We will be going in a day or two.”

“You need to know how to read and write properly for using digital cash, right?” Ashrath asked innocently. Ashrath is one among millions of Indians who have never been to school. “Large numbers of workers in garment industry are illiterate or primary school dropouts,”Ashrath said. “I wonder how workers like me without basic education can use all these new techniques.”

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Ashrath and his friend Alam, garment workers, packing their bags.
“I used to send around Rs 8,000 a month to my parents in Moradabad. My family depended on this, it had no other source of income. Thanks to Modi and his notebandhi, I cannot send them money from now,” said Ashrath, a young garment worker in Delhi’s Old Seelampur.

Ashrath works in a small garment factory in old Seelampur, Delhi that makes jeans. “I have 7 siblings. My father is a marginal, indebted and ailing peasant. I was the only earning member of our family,” he said.IMG_9975

Bhupendra Rawat, a tensed garment worker in his Tank road factory, Delhi.

A closed jeans manufacturing unit in Tank Road, Delhi. Workers come to factories enquiring availability of work.

Textile workers who have brought their family to Delhi are hit very badly. There are four types of factory units involved in textile production. They are cutting, fabrication, dyeing and finishing respectively. Almost all cutting and fabrication units are closed. Other two units are about to shut.

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IMG_7338Talib

“We were poor. But Modi made us poorer. He humiliated us by attacking our dignity,” Talib, a young industrial worker, said near his workplace in Wazirpur industrial area of Delhi. Talib face reflects the frustration, anger, humiliation and revenge that steel industrial workers in Wazirpur, one of the largest steel production belts in Asia, have been seething in.IMG_1318

Labourers are still paid in old currency and in converting the money into valid tender: a 1000 gets 700 and a 500 gets just 300. Middlemen thrive.IMG_1339r

“I didn’t see rich people in bank queues. It was people like me who stood in queue to exchange money. Government should understand that poor people are suffering,” Sunil, a worker from Chhapra in Bihar, said.

All Images Copyright ©Vijay Pandey

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