In the scrap between the government and traders, daily wage earners in the city are being ground to the point of starvation.
The protest over introduction of local body tax (LBT) by small traders and the Federation of Associations of Maharashtra a body of 750 trade organisations in the state has been waging on for 15 days now, but no resolution is in sight. Shops have remained shut and traders refused to sell goods, leaving many consumers in a fix.
But migrant labourers who depend on everyday jobs in the city for sustenance have it the worst. For them, scraping together enough money for one square meal a day is getting to be an ordeal as they cannot find work. Sending money back home to their families is an even more daunting challenge.
'Traders don't understand our plight'
Hasin Ali, who came to Mumbai in search of a job a few years ago, has no fixed employer. He gets up every day and looks for work, selling his labour to anyone who needs it in the city. “I haven’t found work in the last 15 days.
The shops are closed so there is no employment. I have to feed my wife and kids but there is no food to eat. There is nobody to ask us how we live. I have no money to send to my parents back in Jharkhand,” says Ali, adding that he is part of the neglected groups of daily wagers in society.
Another labourer Zhummam Ali spoke about his plight saiying, “It was Mumbai that employed me five years ago. But it feels like Mumbai has come to a standstill, as there is no employment and no means of earning money.
I would earn about Rs 300-500 daily and I have nothing saved because what I make is not enough to fulfil even the basic needs of my wife and kids back home in UP.” He went on to add, “I have to send money back to my village to sustain them and pay for their education. But there is no work.”
Talking about the difficulties the labour class is facing for the past 15 days, Mohammed Hussain said, “We do odd jobs like transporting heavy goods from one place to another, working at big shops and restaurants and so on.
We earn on a daily basis and do not have a fixed income. There is no money to even fill our empty stomachs.” He addded: “I have my parents and family to take care of. I send money to my village where five more lives depend on it. How are we supposed to cope up with this situation?”