50 days: Jaipur labourers put their faith in PM

A PUCL survey report released on Friday revealed that many of the casual labourers in the Pink City hope for a dramatic turnaround in their fortune because of Demonetisation

Photo by Himanshu Vyas/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Himanshu Vyas/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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NH Web Desk

A fraction of casual labourers in the pink city who have bank accounts are waiting for the Government to put in some money in their accounts, convinced that Demonetisation was meant for their benefit. Despite uniform hardship, loss of work and wages, many of them remain hopeful of a turnaround, reveals a PUCL study conducted between December 20 and December 23 covering 20 of the estimated 400 Chowkies in the city where contractors pick up labourers.

Almost blind faith in the Prime Minister and his claims made many of them believe that the move was aimed at eradicating poverty. This faith was manifest in the following responses:

  • “Achha kara hai, kala dhan nikalna chahiye” (It’s a good decision, black money should get exposed)—Ramswaroop (60)
  • “Garibi ko khatam karne ke liye Modi ji ki yojana” (This is Modi ji’s scheme to root out poverty)—Shreeram (22)
  • “Modi ji ne kiya hai to achha hi hoga (Since Modi Ji has done it, it must be in public interest)—Tej Ram Soni (30)
  • “Brahashtachar badhta ja raha hai to notebandi zaruri hai” (Demonetisation was necessary to curb runaway corruption)—Mukesh Kumar Yadav (24)

The survey was conducted by 64 law students from 13 colleges and universities across the country to find out the impact on people of Demonetisation. The sample size covered 737 casual labourers. The findings were released on December 30.

The responses of Jagdish (40) and Rajkumar (30) were typical. While Jagdish had opened a bank account two years ago, he did not remember the name of the bank. Rajkumar who too opened an account around the same time said that he had visited the branch of the State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur 2-3 times this month to check if the Government has credited any money.

The accounts in most cases were opened to receive social benefits in MGNREGA payments, housing subsidy, pension and various subsidies. Most of the migrants who claimed to have bank accounts did not have the accounts in Jaipur.

The responses of Jagdish (40) and Rajkumar (30) were typical. While Jagdish had opened a bank account two years ago, he did not remember the name of the bank. Rajkumar who too opened an account around the same time said that he had visited the branch of the State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur 2-3 times this month to check if the Government has credited any money.

LABOURERS SPOKE OF DISTRESS THEY FACED AFTER THE DEMONETISATION DECISION

While many of them suddenly found themselves without any work, several of them reported that payments were made to them in old notes. They could exchange old notes at a discount of up to 25- to 30%.

An old ₹500 note fetched ₹350 to ₹400 and a ₹1,000 note about ₹700. When they were paid in new ₹2,000 notes, they would get ₹1,800 or even less because of the shortage of notes of lower denominations. They were affected by the rise in prices of staple food items like wheat flour. Responses suggested that the price of wheat flour which hovered around ₹20 a kilo shot up to ₹25 or more a kilo post demonetisation.

Even more alarmingly, workers have been forced to take small loans from moneylenders at a high rate of 5% a month for bare survival.

The survey, however, also revealed the pain and hardship that the labourers put up with during the past 50 days. Some of the voices of distress recorded by the survey are as follows:

  • It has destroyed my life as my wife has left me….I am unable to pay fees for my children...Work and wages have come down—Mahindra (38)
  • My mother died, she was ill but we did not have money for her treatment even as we were forced to survive on bread and salt—Jamilan Yaju (50)
  • We were forced to go without much food for 10 days. The landlord threw us out and we were surviving on credit. Now even credit is being denied to us.—Babulal (30)

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Published: 30 Dec 2016, 3:38 PM