By Ashok Jha
The terrain surrounding Gogunda, southern Rajasthan, is tough and there is little cultivable land, people often have to depend on other modes of income to survive. Like many others across India, people are being forced to migrate to look for work and end up relying on contractors to help them find jobs. The region’s inhabitants are often poor and uneducated and many choose to move to the cities in search of a work in mines, factories, construction sites, shops, malls and hotels. Usually it is contractors, who are members of their families or people from their village, who bring them to the cities, but many are no better off than before as contractors simply fail to fulfill their empty promises.
Contractors have a responsibility to pay the workers’ salaries, yet many fail to do this. Even in cases where workers do get paid, salaries from contractors tend to be significantly less than what a factory owner for example, would pay. Those who complain face serious physical harassment and are even threatened with the loss of their desperately needed job. This means that workers live in constant fear of speaking out against exploitative employers and are stuck in this modern slavery.
India’s uneven development has meant that thousands of migrant workers move across India from rural to urban areas, with the hope of a better life, currently the numbers of such workers are estimated at around 100 million (Overseas Development Institute).