Cameraperson: Aishwarya S Iyer
Ahead of Rajasthan elections The Quint traveled to Bhilwara and Dungarpur districts of Rajasthan to understand the extent of employment woes, the nature of available employment and how this has led to migration to other states.
Across districts of Dungarpur and Bhilwara dangerously high fluoride levels in the water has weakened their bones. Bansi Lal, who feels his bones have weakened over time has left Rajasthan multiple times to find work elsewhere. The people across these districts drink the same water. He can not afford to not be able to earn due to the weakening of his bones.
“I left studying and went to Bombay where I worked for three years in a canteen, then I came back. After which I left for Ahemdabad, there for 3-4 years I worked at a hotel,” he said.
When asked why did he leave he said, “I was not getting work here. No one is educated at home, everyone is poor and farmers. We do a little farming. When it rains we get some food, otherwise we don't. We have no employment here, but we have family to take care of. So, have to go out to work.”
The biggest source of employment in Rajasthan’s Mewar region for the poor comes from working in mining factories by which they earn Rs 2,000 - Rs 3,000 a month. But this source, which is a means of their survival, has gravely compromised their health and life, driving the poorest of poor to find employment in other states.
Mine workers who work in granite, sandstone and marble factories contract a fatal respiratory disease called Silicosis. The disease has no cure and within a few years they die as their lungs lose the ability to breathe.
Ram Singh Sukka who has contracted Silicosis and has not been able to work a day for more than a year now says when he began to work in the mining industry, he sought better employment opportunities. “People said there will be less work and opportunity for me so I should go to work in the mines. I thought I would get good work but that didn't happen. The people there took no responsibility for my health.”
He recalls how gradually his body stopped working, his lungs became weaker, he started coughing a lot and his body began to persistently ache. “When I got myself checked, they said I had this disease,” he told The Quint.
When asked what work was available other than being a mine worker he said, “There is nothing else. There is farming here, but the monsoons don't pour adequately. The cutting and harvesting of the produce is also very expensive.” Adding that there were no proper irrigation in the area due to which, even if you owned land, there was no dependable cultivation – forcing many like him to move to mining.
He was sure he did not want his kids to suffer from the same disease so he sent his kids to neighbouring Gujarat to work. He sees very less of them today.
The total number of job seekers registered with the National Career Services, Union Ministry of Labour, is around 9 lakh people (8,57,316) whereas the total number of job vacancies available (in all sectors) in the state is not even 13,000 (12,854). Which means, only a discouraging 1.4 percent of job seekers could find employment.
With voting due on 7 December, the poor in Rajasthan feel they’ve been ignored. That not enough work has been generated for them and in cases where the fluoride water levels are dangerously high, staying in the state and working has in turn made them too weak to work.
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