March 4, 2019
Increasing labour influx into Tamil Nadu from northern states is sure a proof of the state’s economic prowess, but this phenomenon has brought in new headache for administration.
Anecdotal evidence suggests a spurt in crime in Coimbatore and surrounding areas as also murmurs of protests from natives who are losing out jobs and livelihood to migrant workers.
Migrants from other states offer themselves at cheaper wages as even this lower earning is more than what they get back home.
Workers and owners of construction activities confirm that higher wages and facilities in Tamil Nadu was one reason for increasing migrants entering the state’s work force.
J. Palaniswamy, one of the Managing Directors of K.R constructions. He said “migrant labourers from north India they seek D-level jobs in hotels, foundries, factories, and construction sites among others. These immigrant labourers work for lower wages compared to native workers of Tamilnadu. I pay 450-500 rupees as the day wage to a native construction kuli, but I pay only 275 rupees for an immigrant worker for 11-12 hours of job. This relatively increases the profit I make out of the contract”
A 26-year-old construction worker Viswhajeet Gupta said he relocated to Coimbatore after working in various constructions sites across south India. “I am aware that they pay me lower wages than what they pay to a native worker but it’s better than what I was earning in Bihar. I was living with my family on platforms, but now I have a roof over my head” he said. Moreover, he has become fond of the food they cook in his construction site. “I have gained few pounds after coming here” he added shyly
R. Ranjeet Kumar runs Mira Manpower Agency which exclusively contracts foundry labourers to various industries across Coimbatore. Ranjeet is an ITI graduate from Bihar and migrated to Coimbatore 10 years ago.
Ranjeet told us that he himself worked as a foundry labour for five years. Later he gained experience and formed a network of contacts in Coimbatore and currently outsources manpower to various industries on a regular basis. “My agency provides accommodation and food to labourers arriving here from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar, Jharkand, Rajasthan and Odisha among others. We earn 20 percent of commission on a labourer’s daily wage for his service,” he said.
Advocate R. Rajivgandhi said the Constitution guaranteed freedom of practicing any profession or trade or business anywhere in India except Jammu and Kashmir. Having said this, there is a need to study the impact of the influx of migrant workers on native workers, he said. “Usually big industrial units prefer to employ immigrant workers because they don’t engage in trade union activities and they are paid minimum wage (Rs. 275) or even less. For an employer, this becomes very convenient to retain his mega share of profit from the business. There is also a shortage of manpower willing to take up D-level jobs. The growing need for unskilled labourers is also reason for this migration, he said.
S. Murugandham, a native jewelry designer, said jewelry sector has attracted many workers from outside.
“I have been in this jewelry designing field for more than 10 years now and have worked with famous jewelry brands here. I have employed about thirty labourers in my workshop, twelve of whom are outsiders from North India.”
Previously there were instances of petty theft but now the regulations have been strengthened and migrants monitored more efficiently he said.
“We have regulated the terms of employment strictly with the help of Police Department. We obtain the ID proofs of every employee and do a preliminary back ground check before appointing the work, even if it were on contract basis,” he said. “The native workers have been made to mentor the unskilled migrant workers. I do have to pay the native workers higher but the migrants don’t complain,” he said.
But the presence of migrants has coincided with a rise in crime graph.
P. Perumal, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch said “it would be wrong to generalize about migrant workers. But yes, there have been instances of major crimes like ATM bursts, burglaries executed by north Indian crime groups. But they are a part of organized crime groups.”
“Criminals posing as immigrant workers have tipped these gangs to commit such crimes. But we can’t concretely establish that these immigrant workers do not engage in crimes. We catch them often in chain snatching, robbery cases, even in murders (with hidden motivations) and have remanded them but majority of them are emotional crimes” he added.
When asked about the remedial measures taken by the police, Perumal said, “In the past 2 years, the city police have made stringent regulations to overcome this issue. We have advised all the owners/employers to keep record of the migrant workers who work for them. These records should also be submitted to the local police station as well. This way we are trying our best to track the culprits even if they migrate from one place to another, under the pretense of employment.”
Advocate Rajivgandhi admitted that an analysis of crime history of TN for the past five years showed that number of north Indian convicts has increased in the state.