Stories on the Move

Falling prey to thekedar's greed

Vajaram, 23, hails from Pipala village in Kumbhalgarh. He often migrates to Udaipur, Kelva and Rajasamand in search of work. Two years ago he started working as an unskilled worker on a stone quarry along with five other friends from his village and was promised a daily wage of 100 rupees (1.6 USD) by the contractor. For the first year, they received their dues on time, however soon enough, the contractor began delaying wage payments. While Vajaram and his friends patiently waited for two months to receive their dues, the contractor insisted that they would be paid provided he was able to sell some more stones. They persisted in their attempt to recover their wages, however, the contractor refused to speak to them over the phone and was eventually untraceable.

Vajaram soon learnt that he wasn't alone. A group of 20 other workers who worked with him on the same stone quarry also found themselves in a similar quandary. The contractor owed each of them 6000 rupees (100 USD) for two months of work on the quarry - a collective sum of over 1.2 lakh rupees (2000 USD) in unpaid wages. None of the workers are aware of the contractor's whereabouts, nor are they aware of possible means to seek legal counsel and claim their hard-earned money.

A story of dashed hope

Tulsiram, 30, is a young migrant from Manchda village in Rajasamand district. In order to improve the financial health of his family he dropped out of the tenth grade and migrated to Mumbai at a tender age of 15 to work in a shop with his brother. His brother had been working in Mumbai for many years but wanted to return to the village owing to his ill health. Tulsiram too was dissatisfied with his experience working in Mumbai. He was paid a paltry amount and worked dreadfully long working hours. After enduring the marginal living conditions in Mumbai he quit working at the shop and moved to Deev (Daman and Diu) in the hope that life would be better. However, Tulsiram found himself in similar conditions in Deev where he worked in a factory that manufactured cardboard boxes. He now earns a meager daily wage of 110 rupees (1.8 USD) in predominantly unskilled work with a negligible annual increment of 5 rupees (less than 10 cents). Tulsiram has reluctantly spent the last 5 years working at the factory. He finds himself in a predicament that most young workers from the region face. Seeing no future in his present occupation, he wishes to return home, knowing that he may not even find work if he does.

Instead of money he got disease

Kamani lal, a father of three, is a resident of Kakarwa village in Rajasamand district. His wife, daughters and he live in a crammed one room home in the village. He dropped out of school after completing the fifth grade and migrated to Ahmedabad, Gujarat at the age of 17. There, he was trained to dye cloth for which he was offered an initial compensation of 3000 rupees (50 USD) per month. The work conditions however were poor and the highly toxic chemicals used for dying the cloth began to take a toll on his health. He returned to his village and six months later landed a job as a diamond cutter in Surat. He spent 8 years working as a diamond cutter and his salary rose from an initial amount of 4000 rupees (66 USD) per month to only 6500 rupees (108 USD) per month - an average increment of around 300 rupees (5 USD) a year. Inspite of the low wage increment, Kamani lal was making enough to meet expenses and was satisfied with the work. He was working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, which put immense strain on his vision. The need for precision in diamond cutting made it challenging for him to work and further deteriorated his eyesight. Eventually he was compelled to return to his village.

Kamani lal, now 30 years old, continues to survive marginally in his village with mounting domestic responsibilities and a deteriorating vision. With no intention of migrating again and only 3 bighas of land to cultivate, his livelihood continues to be plagued by uncertainty.

Helpless in an alien land

Mangilal belongs to the Mogiya community of Southern Rajasthan - a community of skilled sculptors who create statues of deities from plaster of Paris. During peak seasons, the Mogiyas are known to migrate with their entire families to different cities across India in order to sell their statues. Mangilal and his family often migrate to Delhi, Maharashtra and Gujarat and sleep on the street at night. Due to lack of proper shelter, he and his family is often robbed of their belongings and are forced to buy fuel from the black market at exorbitant prices. Moreover, they have to cope with ad hoc security checks by the police, extortion from municipal officials and are frequently coerced into moving from one part of the city to another. Mangilal himself has been harassed by the police twice on unfounded charges of theft, all because he was unable to furnish a valid proof of identity. His family and he live with the constant insecurity of being homeless and anonymous in an unknown city to earn the very livelihood that they depend upon.