Weighed down by poverty, Ludhiana coolies desperate to start work again
Many coolies (porters) left without work after the lockdown due to the Covid-19 outbreak from March are now making their way back to the city’s railway station, hoping to earn something even though rail services have been restored partially.
There was no help from the government during the lockdown, they said, leaving them totally dependent on NGOs for food and rations for their families. Gagandeep, 41, of Haibowal said he had been working at the railway station from the past 11 years and was the only earning member of the family of five.
“We had no work left after rail services were suspended,” he said. “We had nothing to eat at home and did not get any relief from the government. Some NGOs provided food and ration to the family. I was so depressed that I was thinking about ending my life, but did not do so because there would be no one left to take care of my family.”
Adding that porters’ earnings were at par with labourers, Partap Kumar, 39, district president, Lal Wardi (red uniform) Union, said the government had sent ration to labourers, run special trains for them and also extended financial help to them, but the porters were not given any relief.
“I have four growing children, but due to the lockdown I have nothing to feed them. I had decided to work as a labourer but nothing was available as all factories were closed and construction work had stopped,” said Kumar.
“As rail services have resumed we came to the railway station hoping to get some work. Hardly one or two passengers want us to carry their luggage. We hope things return normal soon,” he added.
Jai Bhagwan, 44, a resident of Kabir Basti at the Dhuri Lines, said there was a lesser chance of them dying of Covid-19 and more chances of them starving.
About 52 coolies work at the Ludhiana Railway station.
Most of them say they have been sending repeated representations to railway authorities for getting the status of Class-4 employees, but no one had listened to their pleas.