GURGAON: Across Gurgaon, the first payday for the working class since demonetisation — it is normally the 7th of the month — came as an unexpected shock, after thousands of workers at factories and construction sites were paid in the old currency on Wednesday.
Sandeep Singh, a resident of UP, who works in a garment unit in Udyog Vihar, received his November salary entirely in old Rs 500 notes. Like him, Sukhram Kumar, a labourer in an industrial unit, was in for a rude shock. “I was desperately waiting for some cash. Last month, I had to visit the bank thrice to exchange old notes, wasting precious work hours. I send money to my family in UP on the 7th of every month. Now, I got salary in the old currency. It’s total injustice,” said Sukhram.
There are thousands of others like them — poor folk, who have travelled from far corners of the country to the city in search of work, mostly in the industrial units. “I’m a diploma holder in garment manufacturing. I did a vocational course and came to Gurgaon in search of a job, since it has so many garments units. In this industry, even salaries are not up to the mark. Now, we’re badly hit by demonetisation. I got 25 old Rs 500 notes as my salary. Just to manage my daily expenses, I will now have to spend at least a day standing in bank queues to deposit the money, and another to withdraw. I will lose salary for these days,” said Mulayam Singh, a supervisor at a garment factory.
But these are the luckier ones. There are others who still don’t have a bank account. “I have got my entire salary in old notes. I can’t even deposit it anywhere, as I don’t have a bank account yet. I have to pay my rent on the 10th of the month, else, I’ll be thrown out of my rented room. On top of that, I’ll have to send money to my wife in Uttaranchal soon, otherwise my wife won’t be able to feed the children. Having these old notes is as good as having no money,” said Sachin Negi.
Some industrial associations said industrialists are helpless as nobody is accepting old currency, and they are not getting new orders. “I understand labourers must be facing severe problem in exchanging old notes. But they need to realise us industrialists too are also in crisis,” said Praveen Yadav, president of Gurgaon Udyog Association.
R L Sharma, president of Gurgaon Labour Law Advisor Association, said, “Both sides (labourers and industrialists) are struggling to overcome the crisis. While earlier, industrial units had cash of Rs 40-50 lakh in hand to give salaries in cash, they can now have Rs 10 to 15 lakh. It’s a tough situation, though, we’re yet to receive any complaints from the labourers.”
Many labourers were worried about their salary getting deducted for days they have to take leave from work to stand in bank queues. “Last month itself, some of us were deducted salaries for up to 7 days, when we were trying to exchange old currency or withdraw new notes. Isn’t it the government’s responsibility to direct industrialists and employers to allow a few days of leave for people like us to exchange notes?” said Rajesh Yadav, a leader of a labour union in Udyog Vihar.
“Paying labourers in cash has been the norm here. The old Rs 500 notes are still accepted at many places,” said an industrialist, requesting anonymity, when asked about the legality of paying with demonetised notes, adding, “We’ve encouraged them to open bank accounts, and are planning to organise a camp for the purpose soon.”
Credits ET Realty