Mohammad Wablu , 21 year old migrant labourer says, "Jab chota tha tabhi darr lagta tha abhi nahi darr ta." He says he was scared when he was young, but not anymore. And he adds, "abhi toh hum tees tees mala upar jaake kaam karta hai." He climbs up to 30 floors and is not scared of heights now.
Wablu is from Maldah / Malda district, which is one of the economically poor districts of West Bengal.
Wablu, Babul Sheik and Manirul Seth are among the group of boys as young as 17 years, who work as building construction labourers in the suburbs of Mumbai. They are paid anywhere between Rs. 400 to Rs. 600 a day.
These boys are now working in the Ekdant Co-op Housing Society, Goregaon East, Mumbai.
They live in a rented and shared room in a nearby slum. These boys are school and college dropouts who left their native places to work and support their families.
Mohammad Babul Sheikh, 27 year old and already married says, "We are 7 brothers and 2 Sisters. The older brothers go out to work so that some younger ones get to learn and can go to school." His parents are old and also unwell to take up any work. Of all the seven brothers only two younger ones remain at home, rest all have left their hometown and work as labourers in different cities.
Wablu says, "Hum kaam karega toh khayega, nahi toh hummein bhuka rehna padta hai," He means to say that they have no choice except to get out to work as they don’t get to eat otherwise.
Working as building painters in high-rise constructions, they risk their lives. One slip from the scaffolding could mean death. Their clothes are wet and full of toxic paints. They are on the same clothes for days, so as to not spoil another pair of clothes and in the bargain, they breathe in toxic substance day in and day out.
Mohammad Manirul Seth, 22 years old, is also from Malda district and is working as a labourer since he was 17. He is a school dropout and is hesitant to talk.
After spending some of their earnings for themselves on food and rent, these young migrants manage to save and send money to their families every month. And this goes on and on, working away from family and home with no assurance for their lives.