The Delhi government’s estimates, through formal and informal surveys of labour chowks and construction sites across the capital, show that 60 per cent workers have left Delhi for their home states after demonetisation was declared on November 8. A survey conducted by the Delhi government’s labour department on November 24 and 25 showed that 30-35 per cent workers had deserted labour chowks, mandis and construction sites because of shrinking work prospects and no pay. An informal survey conducted in the latter half of this month showed the figures had gone up to 60 per cent.
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The government has now decided to conduct a survey in January to ascertain the nature of the trend. Delhi Labour and Development Minister Gopal Rai told The Indian Express, “We are going to conduct a survey next month to find out if workers are still leaving the capital or if the ill-effects of the currency ban are ebbing. The labour department, while conducting registrations of construction workers under the Delhi Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board (DBCWWB) this month, found that 60 per cent of construction workers have left the capital.”
Acting on a central government directive to state governments to assist workers before payday, the labour department had set up 67 camps at labour chowks, markets and industrial areas from November 26-30 to facilitate opening of bank accounts for workers, and those from economically weaker sections.
Rai said, “The department gave me the results of the survey for scrutiny. I wrote to the Prime Minister in November, alerting him about how badly demonetisation had hit the workers. We got no response.” In December, when the DBCWWB was registering construction workers at the Deputy Labour Commissioner’s office, it conducted oral surveys and found about 60 per cent of the workers were absent from sites and chowks where they usually assembled everyday.
“This is a conservative estimate because only construction workers were covered. The other majority of workers in Delhi are daily wage labourers and factory workers, which the Board does not survey or cover. Most have left for villages in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Rajasthan and many others have been forced to look for alternative means of livelihood because they were not being paid their daily wages and employment generating work slowed down,” a DBCWWB officer said. Rai said he wrote to the PMO again this month.
“I will conduct another survey in January so that we can say with a lot more conviction as to how badly the note ban has affected workers. I will also hold a meeting with the labour department in the first week of January to ascertain if some monetary relief can be granted to construction workers registered with the DBCWWB,” he said.