At Sarita Vihar labour chowk, where 400 men gather every day looking for work, uncertainty hung like the winter morning mist.
“The daily going rate for a raj mistry is Rs 550 and for a beldar it is Rs 350. We live hand to mouth. Today, when maliks turned up, they said they will pay us in a few days because they do not have enough change,” Ram Pyarelal, a beldar, said.
For two days, Pyarelal has taken an “udhaar” from the local grocer. “Even he is acting pricey because most people don’t have small notes. I do not want to break my savings of Rs 5,000, which I plan to send home,” Pyarelal, who comes from Bihar’s Motihari, said.
At Old Delhi’s Khari Baoli, wholesale shops selling spices saw a drop in customers. This, in turn, led them to hire fewer porters, who complained they could not make enough money.
Raju, a porter, said, “We manage roughly six trips transporting wares from one Old Delhi market to another. We make Rs 800 on an average. Today, though, we are sitting idle, looking for work to come by.”
In Mayapuri industrial area, small factories that employ 50 men on an average saw demand for their goods drop.
“Work continued at the factory, but at a slower pace,” IFTU general secretary, Delhi, Rajesh Kumar said. “Workers have stacked money for weddings or general savings. They have no bank accounts here in Delhi. They will have to leave work for a few days and go back to their villages to deposit money in their bank accounts,” Kumar said.
Kumar added that factory workers en route to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar had told him about touts at railway stations were offering three Rs 100 notes in exchange for a Rs 1,000 note, and two Rs 100 notes in exchange for Rs 500.