The demonetisation move by the Centre is turning out to be a nightmare for over 1 lakh construction workers in the city. Labour department sources said that 10,000-12,000 daily wage workers have already left Gurgaon.
In the absence of work and cash, a majority of the seasonal workers are struggling to make ends meet. To get a clearer picture, the labour department has also ordered a survey.
Gurgaon is a hub of real estate industry, where around 40,000-50,000 workers migrate to every season. An equal number stay for more than a year, but all workers have been affected.
“Construction work in the unorganised sector has almost come to a standstill and the real estate industry is also witnessing a slowdown. There is no work for labourers and they also don’t have the cash to pay rent, buy food, or send it home,” Rajender Saroha, district convener, Bhawan Nirman Kamgar Union, Gurgaon, said.
A majority of the workers in Gurgaon come from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. They start arriving in August and continue to do so till December. Most stay here till March, before agricultural operations resume in their villages.
“There is no work at the labour chowks. People don’t want to pay the wages owed due to the cash crunch. Some even offer work against the scrapped ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes, which is a joke,” Kripal Singh, a worker from Dausa in Rajasthan, said.
Officials, who have been visiting labour chowks and construction sites to open bank accounts for workers said that the crowd was getting thinner by the day.
“The number of people looking for work at labour chowks in sectors 9, 17, 12, 18, 56, Bhuteshwar temple, Bristol Chowk and Ghata village is decreasing every day,” Saroha said.
Workers earn ₹450-₹550 per day and a skilled mason earns up to ₹700 per day, however, the wage on offer is also lower at present. “No one is ready to offer work. Those who do are willing to pay only half the salary,” Banwari, who works as a mason, said.
Desraj, the state president of Kamgar union, said that the condition of workers across Haryana is miserable. He highlighted the plight of brick kiln workers in Jhajjar, who are unable to subsist due to the cash crunch.
The realty sector, which was already in a slowdown, has been hit hard by the demonetisation, builders said. “At many real estate sites, work was stopped due to slowdown as well as due to NGT order. Now, the note ban has made things even more difficult as there is no cash to buy materials or pay wages,” a realtor said.
The Gurgaon labour department officials said that they are carrying out a survey of workers and are also helping them open bank accounts. “Reverse migration has increased, no doubt, but there is no need to panic. We are opening bank accounts to help workers and a survey will soon give us the exact status,” Jaibeer Arya, additional labour commissioner, Gurgaon, said.
Meanwhile, workers said that they will leave town for good if things do not improve soon.