Forty-year-old Mohammed Irfan from Muzaffarnagar has been calling up his ally Raja, a resident of Vijay Nagar in Ghaziabad quite often since December to find out if the job situation has improved in Noida. Irfan is a carpenter, while Raja is a painter working in the unorganised sector.
Until the first week of November last year, both of them would often meet at the Labour Chowk in Sector 58 and help each other find work.
With every passing week, the frequency of calls from Irfan has increased. “After leaving Noida in November-end, he would call up once a fortnight till mid-January. Then he started calling once a week. Now, he calls twice a week to find out if there is any work for him. He has not been getting any work in Muzaffarnagar. He has a family of six to feed,” Raja said.
Till November-end, Irfan lived in Khoda. “I was left with no choice but to return home. My monthly room rent was ₹2,000, besides the electricity and water charges. I found it impossible to live in Noida without any work for three weeks and went home. I am making ends meet by dipping into my savings and taking loans from friends and relatives,” Irfan said over the phone.
Irfan and Raja are among nearly 1,000 such masons, carpenters, painters, loading labourers, helpers, plumbers and electricians who would gather at the Labour Chowk. The unorganised workforce is yet to recover from the effects of demonetisation.
According to the workers at the Labour Chowk, a large number of people went home and most of them are yet to return to Noida. “You could see over 1,000 skilled and unskilled workers gather here every day, 8am onwards. Now, you will find hardly 300 come here throughout the day. The last time I got wages was four days ago, for unloading work for two hours,” Satbeer, a beldar, who came from Aligarh about a year ago to Noida, said.
They came from various parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
A carpenter earns ₹750 a day, mason, ₹550 a day, painter, ₹500 a day, plumber, ₹500 per day, electrician, ₹400 a day and a beldar, ₹300-350 a day for loading and unloading material.
Plumbers and electricians have still been able to find work. “Even if we are not engaged for the whole day, we do get a job for a few hours to fix leaking taps or choked water pipes. I have been earning ₹200 to ₹300 a day thrice a week. The same is the case with electricians,” Niraj Pradhan, a plumber, said.
Deputy labour commissioner of Gautam Budh Nagar, BK Rai, said that the labour department has not done a survey of the number of workers who are yet to return since the note ban. “The last meeting in this regard was held by the district magistrate on January 4. The opening of bank accounts of labourers and other workers was discussed. However, the model code of conduct for the assembly elections was announced and we were busy with the elections till Saturday,” he said.