Earlier, they used to get work six days a week. But now, they get a maximum of four days of work in a week
Early in the morning, lines of men and women holding steaming cups of tea can be seen at N.R. Circle in Hassan. Hoping to be hired for work, around 500 people congregate at the spot, craning their necks to see if any contractor can be seen in the horizon.
Over the last few days, the overnight downpour followed by early morning drizzle has left them disappointed. They have learnt from their experience that rainy days seldom bring work. Most of them are from Hassan and nearby villages.
For decades, N.R. Circle has been the location for contractors and construction site managers to look for workers. Depending on the work, each worker gets anywhere between ₹450 and ₹600 a day.
However, for the last three-four months during the lockdown due to COVID-19, they hardly got work. Though lockdown has ended, normalcy has not been restored. Earlier, they used to get work six days a week and took a break on Tuesdays. But now, they get a maximum of four days of work in a week.
“For months, we had no work due to the lockdown and we have not come out of its impact yet. I don’t know how long we need to wait for return to the pre-COVID-19 days,” sighed Shivanna, a construction worker. This resident of Hassan town earns ₹600 if he gets work.
“I take up hard work of handling construction material in multi-storey buildings. Many like me are addicted to liquor, and that alone costs me up to ₹100 a day,” he said. “My wife looks after the family’s needs only if I can give her at least ₹300 a day. There have been many days without work,” said Mr. Shivanna, who was visibly agitated as nobody had turned up to hire him though he had been waiting for two hours.
Annaiah of Aduvalli said many workers had difficulty paying weekly instalments for the loan borrowed from a micro-financing firm during the lockdown. “How to repay the loan without earning? Even now, we are not getting work regularly,” he said.
Many women from villages in Alur and Sakaleshpur taluks had gathered at Gandhi Bazar Circle. They are hired to load trucks carrying cabbage.
Many women from villages in Alur and Sakaleshpur taluks gather at Gandhi Bazar Circle in Hassan every day looking for work.
“We leave home early in the morning and get on a bus to reach here. After working all day, we earn ₹500. It would be dark by the time we return home,” said Manjula from Kittane in Alur taluk.
There were days when they return home without any work.
“We come here after spending up to ₹50 on travel. We lose money on the days we don’t get work,” said Kavitha from Banavase village.
With many farmers leaving the yield to rot in the field following a dip in demand, they are seldom hired. While construction workers get financial benefits from their welfare board, agriculture labourers do not, pointed out Ms. Kavitha.