Migrant workers shoes
Migrant workers make medicated shoes at the units they set up on return to their villages in Bihar after losing jobs due to the COVID-19 lockdown in India. Image Credit: Supplied

Patna: Migrant workers in Bihar who returned home in droves after losing their jobs as a result of COVID-19-induced lockdown have started their own business and have emerged as job providers to other unemployed villagers.

One of them is 34-year-old Ashok Das, a resident of Mohanpur village in Jamui district. He was employed with a footwear company in the southern Indian city of Chennai for the past 15 years earning a monthly salary of Rs19,000.

Das, who has four children, was happy with the job which helped his family of seven, including his parents, but the month-long lockdown prompted him to return to his home after the company shut down.

Eventually, he started a business to manufacture medicated shoes and footwear. Currently, around 200 pairs of medicated shoes are being manufactured at his unit from which Das earns around Rs50,000 every month. He is happy saying he will now stay with his family and take care of his children. Das has also employed 25 migrant workers in his unit.

“Ashok Das has emerged as a role model for the society by guiding youths towards job creation. We are providing him all the financial support in his mission,” Jamui deputy development commissioner Arif Ahsan told the media. Medicated shoes are specially made for patients with certain diseases to relieve their discomfort.

Another migrant worker Suraj Kumar has set up a manufacturing unit for paving blocks at his native village in West Champaran district where he has provided employment to 32 jobless colleagues. 25-year-old Suraj was employed in Jammu and Kashmir but the lockdown left him jobless.

Migrant workers pavers blocks
Migrant workers have started a factory to make pavers blocks in Bihar, helping employ other villagers. Image Credit: Supplied

“We are earning well from the business,” he said. According to him, 1000 pavers-block are sold at Rs14,000 to Rs15,000 while a cemented bench seating four is sold at Rs8,000. He had 14 years experience in that field and hence he didn’t waste a moment in starting his own business with the help of some unemployed friends. The local administration has lent full support to him by placing orders for over 10,000 pavers-blocks.

Yet another group of returning migrant workers have set up a unit in West Champaran district to make cricket bats on the basis of their previous experience in that field. Abulesh Ansari worked in bat-manufacturing units in Anantnag in Jammu and Kashmir, and now he is using this experience to provide jobs to others. He uses logs of popular trees to make bats.

“Of course, we are not in a position to produce a large number of bats since the production is manual, yet we are happy to earn good money at my village itself,” says Ansari who earns Rs800 to Rs1,000 by sale of a single bat. He has employed 10 youths in his unit.

Around four million migrants have returned to the state after lockdown. While more than 2.1 million returned by Shramik special trains, the rest came by hiring vehicles or walking, covering a distance of more than 1,000 km under sweltering heat. Many workers are now trying to start life afresh after losing jobs due to the lockdown.