WB: Compensation a far cry for Murshidabad’s Deceased Migrant Labourers

Covid lockdowns and economic backwardness of the district have pushed many daily wagers in the district to various parts of the country. Many of them die due to work risks and other factors, and the families find it challenging to receive compensation amount.

In white school dress the daughter of matin sheikh murdered in chennai along with hakima , his wife and mother mamata beoa. Standingbeside them is kamal hossain of migrant labourers workers union.

Bhagabangola: Iqbal Hossain (18) had just passed his secondary examination when he got himself registered with a contractor who was working on a project at Patna. On May 31, 2021, the news of his death came to Bhagabangola of Murshidabad district and his father Samyan Sheikh (65) was told that Iqbal along with his friend Rintu Sheikh (19) were found in a hume pipe, where they suffered suffocation.

The Patna deaths had caused quite an uproar at that time and Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) Bihar had launched demonstrations before government offices and the contractor’s office, demanding compensation to the kin of the deceased. Ultimately the CITU Patna unit had been able to force the contractor and they paid Rs 9.5 lakh as compensation to the family members of Iqbal.

The father, Samyan Sheikh, with tears rolling, remembered his son who had given up his studies during the lockdown period to become a migrant labourer and thus lost his life. He thanked Murshidabad CITU and Bihar’s CITU unit for standing in his time of need and arranging the compensation for his only son’s death.

Samyan sheikh father of iqbal hossain(18) who died in a hume pipe in patna.

Samyan sheikh father of iqbal hossain(18) who died in a hume pipe in patna.

“No compensation can heal my loss but at least the contractor organisation has been penalised and that gives me a good feeling,” he told NewsClick.

Bhagabangola block, located about 30 kilometres away from Berhampore, the administrative capital of Murshidabad district, has seen more than 60 migrant labourer deaths in recent times. This was informed by Kamal Hossain, district president of West Bengal Migrant Labourers’ Union.

In most cases there has been no compensation apart from the cases where CITU has been able to intervene. There has been cases of murder, of death by drowning and many suspicious deaths of migrants from the district, who trudge to many states across India for work after not finding work in their local towns or villages.

Over 1.4 million people of Murshidabad district (the total population is 7.1 million) are currently living in other states for work and can be termed as migrant labourers. Most of them are engaged as menial labourers working as masons, househelps and in various industrial units as daily wage labourers.

A large number of women too migrate to other states from Murshidabad district working as domestic helps and as help of masons in construction work. One such woman, Rejina Beoa (26) told NewsClick that now, she is contemplating to go to Chennai as a help of masons where she will earn Rs 650 daily after 12 hours of work from 6 in the morning to 6 in the evening. Earlier she used to work in Mumbai as a domestic help, earning about Rs 17,000 a month after work for nearly 15 hours in three houses. She left after the communal riots in the city.

Rejina’s brother, Matin Sheikh (24), who was employed with construction firm, was recently murdered in Chennai but the family is yet to receive any compensation.

The family lives in slums on railway land, close to the tracks, and originally they hailed from lands which had been devoured by river Padma.

With no industries of its own, Murshidabad district is economically backward and the main agricultural products are rice and jute, and fruits like litchi and mango.

We came across Sirajul Sheikh (30) and his sister Sumina Khatun (26), who said that as the government was not providing them with work in the home state and due to non-existent 100 days work programme (MGNREGA), they have to leave their homes and to go to other states for work. “Once we go don’t know how we will come back, in coffins or alive upon our return, but still, we have to move to other states under compulsion as hunger burns in our belly.”

Sirajul sheikh(30)along with her married but separated sister Sumina khatun.. Who are moving to chennai as hunger boils in their belly.

Sirajul sheikh(30)along with her married but separated sister Sumina khatun.. Who are moving to chennai as hunger boils in their belly.

Talking to NewsClick, Kamal Hossain of Bhagabangola alleged that “The local block development officer is a thief and do not come in help of the migrant labourers and they do not receive even the paltry compensation of Rs 2,000 that is assured to the deceased family under the Samabyathi scheme of the West Bengal government.

Hossain also alleged that the local MLA had taken a subscription of Rs 10,000 from each of 4 gram panchayats as compensation for Matin Sheikh’s death but they were provided with Rs 10,000 only, and the rest Rs 30,000 went to the MLA as cut money.

At Rambag of Bhagabangola, we came across the family Abdul Matin Mahaldar who lost his life in Orissa. An employee working under contract with the L&T group, the paint worker drowned and his death did not earn any compensation. The Mahaldars are Khotta Muslims, a backward caste in Bihar and West Bengal.

Bearded man is  the father and mother and daughter and widow of Abdul matin mahaldar

Bearded man is  the father and mother and daughter and widow of Abdul matin mahaldar

On August 15, 2021 the family was informed of the death. Though they have an identity card of the L&T company with them, the family did not get any compensation. In fact, like the Mahaldars most of the deceased families, except those for whom the CITU has been able to stand in the far flung states, have not got any compensation.

The family now live in penury and their widows are now being forced to enrol themselves as migrant labourers and mason helps.

In Bhagabangola, the rate that Bidi workers get is much less even than the state average, and hence it is very difficult even to earn even Rs 100 per day. This is another factor behind the precarious lives of daily wagers here, forcing them to migrate out from the state.

Courtesy: Newsclick



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