Sridam Haldar’s wife Pratima (right) and Krishna Biswas’s wife Ujjala bind bidis in Sridam’s hut. (Kaushik Pramanik)
Farakka (Murshidabad), Nov. 18: The neighbours of the Murshidabad migrants killed or missing in Monday’s building collapse in Delhi today said they still wanted to go to the capital because of the promise of a higher income and to escape abject poverty at home.
At least 25 people from Murshidabad are either dead or missing in the collapse. But their neighbours said the tragedy had not deterred them from “dreaming” about going to Delhi.
Ranjit Haldar, a resident of Farakka, which has lost at least eight of its people to the cave-in, said he earned between Rs 2,000 and Rs 2,500 a month selling tea. “I have a stall near the field hostel of the Farakka Barrage Authority. But the meagre earnings are not enough to provide for my family. I have a wife and two school-going children. My old mother also lives with me,” Ranjit said.
Ranjit, who lives in Nishindra Colony, said he knew several people in his neighbourhood who were “doing well” in Delhi. “I can earn much more in Delhi. Even a rickshaw-puller or a vegetable vendor earns between Rs 7,000 and Rs 8,000 a month in the capital,” he said.
Ranjit said he would leave for Delhi once his son Sanjit, a Class XII student, completed school.
Asked if the building collapse had forced him to rethink, Ranjit said: “The death of so many of my neighbours has come as a shock to me. But one has to accept the fact that it was an accident. More and more people from here are willing to shift to places such as Delhi to earn more.”
He said he knew another Haldar family in his area that had lost eight of its members to the collapse. “The Haldars’ house is 1km from mine. I knew sisters Jamuna and Rebati Haldar who were killed in the collapse,” Ranjit said.
Jamuna’s daughter-in-law Ashtami and granddaughter Rupali have also died, family members said. Rebati’s two sons, Bishtu and Kanchi, and Bishtu’s wife Chinu have also been killed.
Like Ranjit, Sridam Haldar and Krishna Biswas of Nishindra Colony have also decided to go to Delhi for higher incomes. Sridam, 30, who earns around Rs 50 a day selling peanuts on local trains, said he would move to Delhi by December. His wife Pratima, 25, binds bidis and earns around Rs 30 a day.
Sridam said he had discussed with neighbour Krishna the employment prospects in Delhi. Krishna, a labourer whose average daily income is about Rs 100, said his brother and sister had migrated to Delhi nine years ago. “My brother is a rickshaw-puller while my sister works as a domestic help. They earn between Rs 6,000 and Rs 7,000 each a month. Sridam and I have decided to move to Delhi with our families,” Krishna said.
He said his brother, whose name is also Sridam, would take him and his neighbour to Delhi in December. “We are not bothered about the Delhi collapse. Such an accident can happen in Murshidabad too,” Krishna said.
Kalu Haldar, a resident of Farakka’s Rail Colony, said his brother Mahadeb, 42, had migrated to Noida 15 years ago. “Mahadeb is a rickshaw-puller in Noida. His son Mohan is a driver there. Together, they earn Rs 20,000 a month,” Kalu said.
“We used to live in a shanty at Rail Colony. But now I have moved into the concrete house my brother has built in the neighbourhood. In the past two years, Mahadeb had come to Farakka several times to supervise the construction of the house,” Kalu added. “My brother plans to return to Farakka once he grows old. He is saving money for the future.”
Prasenjit Haldar, a resident of Farakka’s Subhas Palli, said his neighbour Ratan Haldar had migrated to Gurgaon nine years ago. “He earns Rs 6,000 a month as a labourer. He used to earn not even half the money as a fisherman here,” Prasenjit said. “Ratan has no plans of returning home in the near future.”
At least two lakh people from Murshidabad work in places such as Delhi, Kerala and Karnataka.