Though for a day or two, “This ‘free’ home visit is too good as the agents are paying for everything. Moreover, they also deal with our employers to ensure leave. So no risk of losing job,” said Maidul, a resident of Raiganj in North Dinajpur district in Bengal and a daily wage earner at a shoe factory in Delhi. “We will definitely cast vote as our agent wants. He is favouring us. Betraying him will be too immoral,” Maidul clarifies his own understanding.
Maidul is one of the thousands from districts like Malda, Murshidabad, Coochbehar or South Dinajpore. Without any official statistics, estimated around 10 lakh daily wage earners from these districts of West Bengal are working in different places in North, West or South India. Many of the assembly constituencies in northern Bengal have quite high number of these workers as voters.
As the system goes, agents, those who organize workers for the upcountry workplaces are arranging this homecoming trip for people under their own control. Against that, they get paid adequately by the political parties. Keeping track of these agents and negotiating with them is an important ‘Electioneering’ job for political party leaders.
But what causes this large-scale outflow of workforce from Bengal? As carpenter Sirajul said, “Against around Rs 350 a day here, we get Rs 700 plus in Kerala. Cost of living is also not too high there.” The picture is almost the same in cloth factories in Surat, shoe factories in Delhi or cloth factories in Ludhiyana.
“Increasing poverty, poor academic level, unemployment, low demand for workers in Bengal is the key factor behind this outflow of the workforce,” said social worker Arup Guha. According to a survey, Kerala spends over Rs 17,500 crores per annum to pay to migratory daily wage earners. A sizable portion of this goes to the workers from Bengal.