By Dillip Pradhan
Cuttack: They are not the commodities or merchandise to be sold; all they offer is their services, to be had in return for daily wages. And that’s what makes this market unique.
Come to Bajrakabati road or Biju Patnaik Square in the city in the morning of between 8 am and 10 am, folks especially labourers from the villages adjoining city suburbs are found bargaining with their prospective employers for work in fields, house construction and petty jobs like painting or gardening. The congregation of the labourers at the place regularly for two or three hours is locally known as ‘Manisa Haat’ or Labour Market.
They have to rush to the market when dawn strikes while their employers, contractors are still in bed in the comforts of air-conditioned rooms. Just having their morning meals- Pakhala, they rushed to the nearby bus stop to board the morning shuttle for the city. If they miss it, their wage of the day may be lost as the market vanishes within an hour or two.
“To board the first bus in the morning is the target and accordingly we get ready. ‘Pakhala’ is our breakfast as well as lunch. So, we take the watery food in the lunch box for noon meal”, said Makardhar, a labourer from Chhatia area.
There are working couples who rush to the city in search of wage leaving their kids at home with the elderly. Those who have no elder persons in homes to take care of the kids, one has to stay back to
care for the children. Mother-in-law takes care of the babies. So, we both can work outside. When she falls ill, I have to remain indoors and my husband comes to the market”, 40-year old Basanti Naik from Nilai said.
Even as the government has done numerous schemes for the welfare of the poor, the benefits are yet to reach some poor. “The government is providing pucca house to the poor people, but it is unfortunate I am deprived of this scheme. As I am a daily wage earner, I cannot afford time to move around various offices for a home”, Sankar Parida of Salipur said.
The so-called big guns (employers) compete to hire the best workers at low price while labourers compete for the best satisfying job maximum at a price of Rs 250-300 or even lower depending upon the type of work.