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Migrant labourers stay back in Delhi to 'vote for change'

NEW DELHI: A large number of migrant labourers go back home for a break, but this time, some of them stayed back here to "vote for change" in the Lok Sabha elections on the last Sunday. "Every year we go back to our respective hometowns/villages for a break in April-May. This time we decided to stay back because of the elections. We don't have voter cards in our respective homes but in Delhi. If we had gone back, we would have missed the chance of casting our vote," said 43-year-old Rajesh.

Asked why they feel voting is important, 52-year-old Rakesh Kumar said they have suffered enough in the past few years and "if I had gone home without voting, I would also have lost my right to complain about the government and lack of opportunities for people like us".

While Rakesh Kumar, who lives in Ghonda, was working at a garment shop in Chandni Chowk which was sealed last year, Rajesh, living in Karawal Nagar, was working in a small firm which stopped production after the 2016 demonetisation.

"Things were good before that (2106). We were earning well. My family was staying with me in Delhi. After I lost the job, I was forced to asked them to shift back to Barabanki (in Uttar Pradesh). Now I am staying here with other men. There is no fixed job now. I am still looking for a stable job," Rajesh said.

Rakesh said he was working in the shop since 2002. "Now suddenly they say it is illegal. It was there even before I was working in it. I was there since 2002, how can suddenly they say that it is illegal. If it was, why they (authorities) were sleeping till now. Initially, we were told that we will be relocated. That is also not happening. With the kind of money we earn, we cannot afford to sit at home for more than a week. Now it has been months. It is not easy to find a job that is respectable. Now I am pulling a rickshaw here. I have a family of six in Bihar. They all are surviving on the money I send," he said.

Another labourer in Seelampur area said the lack of jobs in the national Capital is surely a sign of danger. "I came here (Delhi) in the early 1990s. It is not that there were always good options for people like us to work even then, but the good part was that there were options. At least you can go back to your home with some money in hand. "I am not going home this summer as I don't have any money. My family will expect me to bring things. I don't want to go home with an empty pocket. Since the past two-three years, it has been almost impossible to survive here. Most of the people have returned home. I don't have any land and so can not even think of farming," said 49-year-old Boomi Ram from Bihar.

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