PHOTO • Sapana Jaiswal

Mohammad Wablu, a 21-year-old migrant labourer climbs up to 30 floors and is not scared of heights now.  "I was scared when I was young, but not anymore," he says. Wablu is from Malda, one of poorest districts of West Bengal.

PHOTO • Sapana Jaiswal

Wablu, Babul Sheikh and Manirul Seth are among a group  some  as young as 17 years  who construct buildings in suburban  Mumbai. They are paid between Rs. 400 and Rs. 600 a day.

PHOTO • Sapana Jaiswal

At work at a housing society, Goregaon East, Mumbai.

PHOTO • Sapana Jaiswal

They live in a shared rented room in a nearby slum colony, where they migrated after dropping out of college to find work and support their families.

PHOTO • Sapana Jaiswal

Mohammad Babul Sheikh, 27, says, "We are seven brothers and two sisters. The older brothers go out to work so that some younger ones can go to school." His parents are elderly and ailing. Of the seven brothers, only two remain at home; the others have all left their hometown and work as labourers in different cities.

PHOTO • Sapana Jaiswal

Wablu says, "Only if we work, we eat. Otherwise we have to stay hungry." 

PHOTO • Sapana Jaiswal

Working as building painters on high-rise buildings is risky. One slip from the scaffolding could mean death. Their clothes are damp and drenched in toxic paint. They use the same work clothes for days, so as to not spoil another set and in the process breathe in toxic substances for days on end.

PHOTO • Sapana Jaiswal

Mohammad Manirul Seth, 22, is also from Malda district and has worked as a labourer since he was 17, after dropping out of school. He is hesitant to talk.

PHOTO • Sapana Jaiswal

After spending some of their earnings on food and rent, the young migrants save and send money to their families every month.