55-year-old Nagaiah, a construction worker from Thuravagunta, comes to the Ongole Bypass Center every day at dawn, eager to find work.
But most of the time, he returns dejected after waiting until noon, when the relaxation phase of the lockdown ends. Like him, dozens of others come from the surrounding villages looking for work in the center. Everyone’s need is the same.
Since the second wave of the pandemic began, most construction activity in both the public and private sectors has stalled, leaving workers, who count around a lakh, on their own.
Sometimes, if they are lucky, they are hired by owners to do various repairs on their homes. They used to charge 500 yen a day to work on construction sites or on houses for repairs. But the situation has now changed for the worse.
“We are ready to work for reduced pay as we cannot return home empty-handed every day,” said a middle-aged worker, Ch. Moshe from Pernamitta.
Their desperation grows day by day and they say that now they are even ready to clean clogged drains.
“We’ll work harder if we have to. But what do we do when there is no work at all, ”says 65-year-old Venkateswarlu from the village of Karavadi, 13 km away. They only find work once in three days or so, added Shiva, 36, who immigrated to the city from the drought-prone village of Pamur.
In addition to their problems, there are the lock restrictions, which they have to resolve by 12 noon. The police won’t allow them to stay there even after noon, even for a minute, said another worker, Sk. Maabasha, from Perlamanyam.
Financial help required
Ch. Srinivasa Rao, head of the Indian Union Center, called for the beating for the unfortunate workers and demanded that the government provide at least 10,000 yen per month and free rations to workers in the unorganized sector. The people badly affected by the pandemic included painters, panel makers, carpenters, electricians and plumbers.