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Print edition : Jan 14, 2011 T+T-

Migrant labourers at the Employment Office in Thiruvananthapuram.-S. MAHINSHA

THEY are already being described as the newest other, the migrant labourers seeking a living on the margins of Kerala society. But who are they really? Here are brief profiles of some of them, customers waiting in a bank to send money home on a Sunday in Thiruvananthapuram.

Suraj: I am 18, he said, and smiled, but he looked much younger, with bold eyes and curly, boyish hair. He dropped out of school after seventh because his family could not afford his education. He hails from Shyamnagar town, considered a development hub in North 24 Parganas district in West Bengal, about 30 km from Kolkata. Here I earn Rs.325 a day, and can send money to my mummy, daddy and bhai [brother]. He has spent seven months in Thiruvananthapuram and has worked under five local contractors as a mason's help.

Dhananjay: Originally a farm labourer from Jalpaiguri district, the land of tea, timber and tourism' bordering Bangladesh and Bhutan in northern West Bengal, he is now a casual labourer at a bridge construction site on the outskirts of the city. It has been seven months since he decided to catch a train to Kerala. His relatives were already here and had offered to find him a job. He had heard that the wages in the State were high and that the working conditions were better. Back home, he would earn Rs.100 a day at best; now he gets Rs.320 a day on an average. Every fortnight he sends money home to his wife and two children.

Bipal Das: He hails from Falakata in Jalpaiguri district and understands and speaks Malayalam after a fashion, after working for eight years under various contractors in Thiruvananthapuram. Depending on the nature of work, he manages to send home Rs.4,000-Rs.5,020 at regular intervals. After work, every day, he commutes to the outskirts of the city, where he rents a large room which he shares with about 25 others. He is happy to work in Kerala and goes home every year during the harvest season to work in the fields. He likes to travel sleeper class, which costs him Rs.660, and not in the crowded general compartment even though the fare is only Rs.360. His two children are too young to go to school.

Chandan Paswan: He is 20 and has now spent a year in Kerala. He hails from the small town of Sarupathar (population under 10,000) in Golaghat district in Assam. He is a casual labourer working for a contractor, and earns only about Rs.200 on some days and is out of job on rainy days.

Sujit: A frail man of 21, he has studied up to tenth standard. He works as a labourer but comes in handy as a carpenter and electrician too. He has worked in Kerala for over three years. He hails from Piyali in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, the gateway to the Sunderbans, where the daily wage is only Rs.100-150.

R. Krishnakumar
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