‘No Job at Home Either’: Migrant Workers Struggle in Assam’s Hojai

Stories of three migrant workers highlight the financial crisis being faced by the poor of the nation.

Published24 Jun 2020, 10:27 AM IST
My Report
3 min read

Video Editor: Varun Sharma & Mohd Ibrahim
Video Producer: Zijah Sherwani

It is estimated that since the COVID lockdown was imposed in March, more than 67 lakh migrants charted their way back home to 116 districts in six states. This number will only grow as the pandemic keeps growing, data compiled by the Union Skill Development Ministry indicates.

Due to the sudden closure of industries, migrant workers were left without jobs or a source of income to feed their families. The lockdown has severely affected small traders and salaried employees who lost their jobs, migrant workers were only the first to face the economic consequences of the nationwide lockdown.

In my hometown Hojai in Assam, stories of three migrant workers – Forij Uddin, Mehbub Alam, Abdul Basit – highlight the financial crisis being faced by the poor of the nation.

Uncertain about his future, 26-year-old Forij Uddin says there is no job for him in Assam. Forij was working as pantry boy in Mumbai but he lost his job due to the lockdown. He returned to Hojai because he had exhausted his options, but there is no hope back home either.

In a family of eight members, Forij is the only person who earns but without any source of income, he is struggling to earn his bread and butter to feed his loved ones.

Feeding his family is getting tougher as the days pass.

“I have no job since 2-3 months. Even here in the village, I have no work to earn money. There are eight members in the family and we have don’t have enough ration. I have heard that government is sending ration for those who are home-quarantined, but no one came here.”

Mehbub Alam returned from Mumbai in March as well. His job as a cab driver was in jeopardy ever since the coronavirus outbreak. The 23-year-old lost his job and came back to his village but there’s no income to sustain himself. As the sole earner of the family, he has the responsibility of four family members.

“We started to get less passengers and trips due to the outbreak. There was no meaning in driving the car without any passenger. I lost my job and had to come back to my village as I cannot afford to stay there.”
Mehbub Alam

For Abdul Basit, his journey from Mumbai to Assam was full of difficulties. The 19-year-old was working at a hotel in Mumbai. He was suddenly told that the hotel had been closed and that he can go to his village. With minimum money in hand, he travelled in a government sponsored bus and reached West Bengal. However, for the rest of his journey to Assam, he had to rent a vehicle. Basit earns Rs 9,000 in a month and has to support five family members.

“I was told that I can now go to village and salary will be paid once I am back. I was given Rs 2,000 after a month.”
Abdul Basit

Upon asking about the future, Basit replied, “What is there to say about the future? I have no job there or here, just sitting in wait.”

The Modi government recently launched a scheme 'Garib Kalyan Rozgar Abhiyaan' for the returned migrant workers of six states – Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Odisha. However, Assam does not figure in the list.

When asked if they would like to work under the the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in their villages, Forij, Mehbub and Basit say that opportunities aren’t many. Moreover, their skills differ.

“In our village, work under MGNREGS mostly includes road and drain construction. Most migrant works are employed in hotel and other industries.” 
Samsul Alam, Student

These migrant workers are going through a financial crisis with no job and savings in hand. With the pandemic still looming, their future is in darkness.

(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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