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Urban poor not excited about election in Assam

By Munize Ali, TwoCircles.net,

Guwahati: With electioneering at its peak in Assam, urban poor of Assam have little in hand to feel happy and hopeful about. Several political parties promised clean government, growth of industry and development but desire for dignity by the working class community is not a polling issue for the political parties, neither is it a matter of concern for policy makers.

Rajib Ali, 35 years old, hailing from Jaleswar is a daily wager and does unskilled manual labor to meet the ends of his daily life. He and his wife work from dawn to dusk to earn what they call pittance. “Our wages are not paid in time. Sometime payment is deferred and some time we are paid less than what we are supposed to get.” Prolonging of payment of wages is common practice as informed by the working class community. Experiences of most of the Bengali speaking Muslim laborers are simply that “our payments are deferred and then we are threatened as illegal migrants because of which we loose our wages”.

Photo by www.scielosp.org

Muslim Bengali speaking working class community face double oppression in Guwahati as they are mostly economic migrant from neighboring districts and are taken for granted as illegal migrants or “Bangladeshis.” “I feel I am an alien in this city. I face harassment while searching for work and if I find work, I face humiliation, exploitation. Sometime I feel I have no existence or identity at all,” laments Rajib Ali. This year Rajib Ali will not vote as he is listed as D-voter.

Nurul Hussain of Sijubari area, Guwahati said that he works about extra hours and his extra works are unpaid. “Even if I work double the time of my schedule, my pay will not be doubled. So I don’t get the wages I deserve. It is not helpful for me and my family.”

It is also very hard for Sokina hailing from Mankachar, currently residing in Panjabari area of Guwaahti. She has two kids and is of 25 years of age. “I work as domestic help and earn about 350 rupees per month. My husband could give me only 100 rupees every alternate day to buy food items for the family which is quite insufficient an amount to maintain house with,” she said.

Safety and personal security is one of the prime concerns of the working class. Several factors like lack of poor housing facility, intimidation by local leaders, low wages, and contested citizenship make them all the more vulnerable. Situation is more or less similar for Ranjan Ali, 38 years old, hailing from Jaleswar, currently residing in Sijubari area of Guwahati city. Ranjan has two children and a wife to maintain. “I could hardly do any saving. My wages are paid in installments and most of the time payment is prolonged and high cost of essential commodities leaves no room for me to have some savings.”

Ranjan also faced physical assault many a times while looking for work in the city. “Whenever something is lost in my neighborhood, we are summoned by the local leaders and interrogated and almost taken for granted that I am a thief and I have stolen the lost things. This is very humiliating and I feel insecure. Even police couldn’t help,” said Ranjan with moist eyes.

Urban migrant laborers have a deep pain in their heart. “Most of big structures in the city are built by us. We gave all our energy, time and perspiration to built beautiful constructions of the city. But once it is built, our contribution is forgotten. We are given the brand called ‘Bangladesis’ and our entitlements are seized,” observed a working class leader in Sijubari.

Manifestos released by several political parties have little concern about the labor rights which are violated on daily basis. No wonder the forthcoming election has almost nothing which could bring smile on the faces of working class community in Guwahati.