Letter to Editor

Poverty drives them to the brink

Letter to Editor, The Hindu
re: Poverty drives them to the brink by Manisha Garg, The Hindu March 6 2008.

Poverty forces Syasamma, seven months pregnant, to work with her husband for laying cables for a telecom company near TB Hospital junction in Visakhapatnam even as their two children sleep nearby. Syasamma gets Rs.70 for a day’s work and her husband Rs.80. Photo: K R Deepak, The Hindu

Dear Editor,
Your article on landless migrants struggling in poverty due to failure of NREGA tells another story. The family pictured in your article, small children sleeping by the roadside while both parents work for a combined income of Rs. 150 / day, is building the fortunes of the telecommunications industry. Normally when we think of this industry we think of IT professionals, BPO workers and MBAs earning so many lakhs per year or even per month. Could they earn so much if they paid living wages to the thousands of people digging up the roads and laying the cables for all the mobile phones, internets, sky tvs and other elite media that consumers are gobbling up? By this I mean wages that would allow those working to have proper food, shelter, water, amenities and legible address permitting them to vote and access rations and government services? Or do we accept that as long as they find a spot by the roadside to sleep, find enough food to enable them to work the next day, they have earned a “living wage?”

NREGA would help families earn living wages in their own villages, where they have homes, addrsses and community support systems. Then they would not be forced to accept such low wages in the cities. At the same time, without waiting for a fully implemented NREGA alone to solve this problem, we must independently ensure actual living wages in the cities too. If consumers have to pay more for telecom services, or telecom industry wages go down, or shareholders double their money in 3 years rather than in 2, or the major telecom industries give less to their highprofile “charity work,” so be it. Living wages and dignified working environment for all come first. All of us should be ashamed to see the working conditions of those who make our IT joyrides possible.

Aravinda Pillalamarri


in response to

Date:06/03/2008 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/2008/03/06/stories/2008030658460300.htm


Andhra Pradesh – Visakhapatnam

Poverty drives them to the brink Focus

Manisha Garg

In the absence of NREGS, the farmers are migrating in search of livelihood

Many of the migrant farmers have to stay in cramped places or on the footpaths

A few of them want to return to their villages

VISAKHAPATNAM: After losing their agriculture lands and livelihood in villages because of different reasons, many of the farmers have now migrated to the city in search of an employment.

But more often than not, their hopes are shattered as they find themselves not earning enough even to make both the ends meet and get employed labourers , with subsistence-level wages and no guarantee of a long-term employment. Forced to move from one place to other in search of work and with no place to live, some of the farmers turned labourers become vagabonds with no place to stay.

Due to lack of money, some of them stay in makeshifts houses on the roadside, others in cramped huts with hardly any potable water or proper drainage facilities.

Increasing population


Sai Baba, 25, a farmer hailing from Orissa, works at the port area so that he could earn two square meal a day for his family. But with the paltry sum of Rs.100, which he gets at the end of each day, it became impossible for him to afford it also.

He works throughout the day and sleeps on the footpath adjoining Gnanapuram. No contract was signed between him and the contractor who brought him here. And there are many others who do not even get even that much amount. Farmers are coming here from as far as Bihar, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh apart from Orissa due to diminishing employment opportunities in agriculture. Girijans and other communities within the district from Araku, Paderu, Ananthagiri, Doomriguda, Vizianagaram, Srikakulam in the absence of NREGS (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme), come on regular basis to find employment in construction activity or at other places.

Out of the total population of over 16.74 lakhs of the city, the number of slum dwellers is more than 6.40 lakhs, spread across the city. The gravity of the situation could be judged from the fact that many of these migrants were staying on the hills located at Kapparada, Seethammadhara, Hanuwant hawaka, Malkapuram, Simhadripuram, Kancherapalem and Gopalapatnam apart from other places where even basic amenities of life are a luxury.

New Railway Colony and Pydimamba Colony are also full of shacks jutted against one other, which speaks about the deplorable conditions of these slum dwellers. Professor in Department of Social Work, Andhra University, S.V. Sudhakar said The population has increased to 16 lakhs and area to 111 sq. km. in the year 2008. The HIV positive cases are high among those staying in the slums because of economic and social factors. Many complain that they were being paid as less as Rs.10 for overtime per hour.

The executive director of Samata, an NGO, Ravi Rebbapragada says “for the past three years, many people from rural areas have approached them for help as they did not get the money promised by the contractor and that some of them had no money for food and were ready to go back to their villages. If the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), which aims at providing minimum 100 days of guaranteed employment per year to a rural family is implemented, their condition may get better.”





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