- Posted December 10, 2013 by
MIGRANTS LIVING ON EDGE, OFF-TRACK!
A vibrant Sunday market chokes the road to Bhoodevi Nagar every weekend. Along its maze of lanes lined with single-room houses, some young women oil their hair in the evening sun, while older ones boil tomatoes for the night’s meal, and laughing children scamper around playing catch.
This colony in Alwal, Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh is home to over 600 families that have migrated from Mahbubnagar at some point, in search of a livelihood. Murali, a local leader and caretaker of the colony, takes some times off, and leaning against a wall, tells why. “"Brathuku teeruvu lekapovatam, chaduvu leka povatam, bhoomi lekapovatam, bhoomi unna vaalaku neelu lekapovatam, (No scope for livelihood, No education, landlessness and the ones who have lands have no water )," he says. His family migrated to Hyderabad thirty years ago, when a severe drought hit Mahbubnagar
All the families here earn their living working as coolies, construction labourers, and maistries (supervising labourers). Contractors in and around Hyderabad come looking to hire these migrants. "Palamur(a Mandal in Mahbubnagar) is especially known for its labour. Contractors know the colony and come to hire us," says Shankar (37), who works as a maistry. He migrated twenty seven years ago. Women also do similar jobs. "They lift bricks and help in laying roofs. The men are paid Rs. 350 per day and the women, Rs. 220.”
While some families have settled here, there are many that visit their villages regularly, and many that have left a few of their kids back home with the grandparents. Venkata Swamy (30) and Chenamma (20) could only afford to bring three of their four children to the city for education. The fourth child remains in the village with his grandparents. ”They don't go to school in the village”, the couple says. Chennamma’s brother-in-law's child also stays with them for studies. An elderly widow, who is a distant relative, shares the home with them and takes care of the children.
Many youth from these families are getting educated in colleges and universities in the city. They often stay separately, close to wherever they are studying. M. Jyothi, a B.Com final year student at Reddy women's college had come to meet her brother Shankar on the Sunday evening. "I stay with my younger brother in Subash Nagar ", she says.
Shankar has two children studying in St. Xaviers' convent high school. Families that can afford a convent education send their children to these schools. The rest go to Mahabodhividyalaya, a government school.
The workers are not offered any health benefits and have to work at their own risk. "If we meet with some accident at work, we have to bear our own expenses. We generally go to Gandhi hospital for cure," says Shankar.
Lack of bathrooms is a problem that continues to haunt these residents, and the situation is worse than in their village, especially for women. "We have to go behind, to the railway tracks to attend nature calls. We go before sunrise or after sunset," says Chinamma, Shankar's wife. They have to wait till it gets dark to take bath. Only a few households have a small wash area inside.
With a road on one side and a railway track cutting across the rear, the people of Bhoodevinagar live under a constant risk of accidents. "A lot of deaths have occurred on the railway tracks. The timings of the trains are unknown. A lot of them lost their lives when they had gone to attend nature calls," said Murali. Younger children in pursuit of their mothers also lost lives here.
Apart from this, the colony is facing the threat of demolition, as the government prepares to lay another railway track beside the existing one. "Mem podaniki ekada ledu (we have nowhere to go)," says Yellamma.
Well known artist\activist Gaddar adopted the colony and has been helping the people here. "There were no pipelines and no concrete roads. We formed a small group went to him. It is because of him that we are able to live here," says Murali. Mahabodhividyalaya was also started by him.
The people have a roof and some education during their stay in the city, but it is a daily struggle to retain even these things. Murali sums it up, "venaka trainu mundi bussu, renditi madhyali unnay maa bathukulu (trains behind us and buses ahead of us, and our lives are stuck between these two).”