Millennium Post

Joblessness plagues Okhla industrial hub

South-east Delhi’s industrial hub, Okhla, has always been bustling with the sound of machines silently whirring away finished goods that are then uploaded onto trucks by a beeline of labourers. 

However, ever since the demonetisation move, the industrial area has fallen eerily silent as many labourers now find themselves out of job. Many of the small scale stitching units and mechanic shops are finding it hard to conduct business as they have finding it extremely hard to conduct business.

Nestled between several factories lies the Labour Chowk, where several labourers where seen playing cards as they idle away waiting for a job. “I have been  waiting for around eight hours since the morning for work. I have still not found any work and it has been three days. I am now desperate and so are the others,” said Rinku Yadav, a labourer who works in a local paint factory.

Around 35 such labourers have been stranded at the Labour Chowk as they wait for a job. They have told this newspaper that the easiest job of off loading and transport of goods is also hard to come by these days. “I used to earn around Rs 7,000 per month before demonetisation and now I can hardly make any money. The factories in the area have stopped offering us jobs,” said Sukham Bera, a labourer.

The Okhla Phase-II area has several small scale stitching units and mechanic shops that had mushroomed in the area are also facing serious problems. Many of the owners have not paid their employees as many important transactions are still stuck in the pipeline.

Now with nowhere to go to find a stable job, the labour class is surviving on loans that they have to take from their friends and in some cases the dreaded loan sharks.

Thirty-five-year-old Vinod Saini, faces this dilemma as he says: “I have two children, both of them are in their final year in school and I have to pay for their school. I have to also pay Rs 3,000 in rent. So I had to take money from a money lender. If you have to decide between sending your kids to school or keeping a roof above your head, what will you choose?” 

However, there are some labourers who are lucky enough to get paid, however, they are paid in high currency notes which makes it hard to use the paper for daily transactions. “My employer gave five people, including me, Rs 2, 000 and told us to divide it among ourselves. We waste hours trying to split the money. We are cashless despite the fact that we have money,” said Kanhaiya Yadav, a worker employed in a sign board making factory.

Now, with no work in sight, there are many who are planning on shifting to their native places. “In my native place I have a some land and we grow crops for self consumption. If I can work on that field, I can at least feed my family. I came to the Capital to escape from farming and now I have to get back,” said Soni, a labourer.
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