“I have been standing here since morning waiting for work. In the past week, I’ve found work only for two days. I have rent to pay and I have to send money home too,” said Bachhan Lal, hailing from Bihar and one of the many labourers impacted by demonetisation.
Bachhan Lal, is one of more than 200 labourers who are worst hit in the aftermath of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes recall by the Union government on November 8.
One can see labourers waiting at the Labour Chowk in SAS Nagar in Madanpura, standing with their tools and waiting for work the entire day. Owing to demonetisation most of the residents have put on hold the work of construction or renovation as cash crunch has made it difficult.
“There is no work. We come here and wait but no one is really coming forward. Otherwise, in an hour in the morning we used to get picked up for some work,” said Moinnudin, who works as a mason.
Labour contractor in Shahimajra, Hira Lal said, “It is becoming difficult as cash is not available. A labourer charges Rs 340, while a skilled labourer will cost anything between Rs 400 or Rs 450. People have put on hold the work thus we are not getting new work.”
“We earn just about Rs 400 a day, on a good day. But now even this income has stopped. We just come and stand about here and return empty-handed, having got no work at all. We have families to feed,” said Babbu Lal, who works as a mason.
Another labour contractor, Parkash Nandan, said, “We have to pay the labourer daily but with non-availability of cash it is becoming difficult to pay. I have a bank account but I am unable to withdraw owing to limitations imposed, so how will I pay labourers?”
Soon after it was announced, demonetisation had come as an opportunity for the labour class to make a quick buck. Many of the labourers admitted that they were hired for Rs 500 per day to stand in queues to get the money exchanged from various banks but that lasted for around a week.
“We were hired to stood in queues to get the money exchanged at various banks,” said a person working as a painter on daily wages but he refused to disclose his name.