For 23-year-old Arjun, a daily wage labourer, the ongoing cash crisis has deepened his miseries. His daily income has dropped to 50%, and, he had left his previous job for the exact reason.
“I used to work in a shoe factory for a paltry salary of ₹7,000 per month. Six months ago, I began working as a daily-wage labourer and I would earn ₹500-₹600 a day. Now, the cash crunch has brought my income down to ₹5,000 per month,” said Arjun.
There are thousands of daily wage labourers like Arjun in Noida who are facing the brunt of Union government’s decision to ban higher currency notes. Every morning, they assemble at Labour Chowk in Sector 58 for contractors to hire them.
However, the demonetisation move has hit the construction industry badly and the worst victims are not builders or contractors, but the daily wagers.
“We have not experienced such financial crisis in one decade. All our construction work stopped abruptly after November 8 as labourers had to be paid in cash,” said Akhileshwar Thakur, an employee with a realtor in Greater Noida.
Many labourers claim their daily wage has reduced to half since November 8.
“I am 24 years of age and contractors prefer younger men. Thus, Earlier, I would easily earn ₹600 per day. Nowadays, it is a struggle to even find a job that pays ₹250 a day,” said Rahul, another labourer.
Like Rahul and Arjun, many labourers are facing the brunt of demonetisation as they neither have bank accounts nor plastic money.
“We don’t have a Jan Dhan account. Moreover, it is difficult for us to save from our daily earnings and deposit in a bank. I have three kids back in Bihar and I have to take care of their needs. I send them money from my ‘galla’ every week,” said Sudhir Singh, another labourer.
The extra number of labourers and the crunch in demand of construction jobs are the two major reasons behind the drop in the income of labourers.
“Gone are the days when contractors used to bring a truck and hire 30 to 40 labourers for large-scale construction activities in Greater Noida. Business is bad and contractors want only two to three labourers for mostly a single house’s construction,” said Laxman, a Noida-based contractor.
Many labourers also accused contractors of paying them in old currencies.
“Contractors make us work hard till evening and then pay us the now scrapped ₹500 and ₹1000 notes. We then exchange those notes for ₹300 and ₹700. I don’t know whether Modi has taken a good decision or not but this is has hit us hard,” said Rahul.
Contractors refuted the charge of paying labourers in old banknotes.
“The cash crunch has hit all of us hard. There is not much work these days. These are daily-wage workers and not employed with us permanently so we can neither delay their salary nor pay them in old notes,” said Anil, a contractor based in Sector 62.