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Migrant workers, small traders feel heat of cash crunch in Kerala

Daily wage labourers find their services being discontinued as the landlords find it difficult to source enough money

Gulf News

Thiruvananthapuram: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have launched the demonetisation exercise to ensnare those who had hoarded black money, but the ground level impact appears to be felt by the less privileged sections of society.

In Kerala, small traders, daily wage earners and migrant labourers from outside the state seem to be the ones in distress the most, since the demonetisation of high-value currencies was announced.

From households to plantations, daily wage labourers find that their services are being discontinued as the landlords themselves find it difficult to source enough money from their banks to pay for the daily or weekly wages of workers.

The situation seems to have affected migrant workers the most. There are an estimated 2 million workers from different states engaged in different kinds of work in Kerala, a majority of them from states like Bengal, Odisha, Assam and Bihar.

Local media reported the departure of hundreds of workers from the Kollam railway station alone, on Sunday.

There was a heavy rush at Kollam on Sunday to board the Thiruvananthapuram-Guwahati train that connects the capitals of Kerala and Assam. This is the train that numerous migrant workers use regularly to commute to and from Kerala, from their home states.

On Sunday, only a few of the migrant workers had reservations, while others jostled for places in the unreserved compartments.

Most of the migrant workers send their weekly earnings to their homes so that the money is not lost, and therefore they had little left with them when the jobs suddenly dried up following the announcement of demonetisation.

A large number of the migrant workers are employed in the construction sector in the state, which is among the most affected sectors in the wake of the demonetisation. Many building projects have been stopped midway, and a steep fall has been registered in Kerala in the registration of properties.

State Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac has warned that the demonetisation move is poised to severely impact the finances of the state government as its revenues from multiple sectors have been adversely affected.

Small traders have also been at the receiving end as shoppers are keeping away for shortage of cash.