Bengali Migrant Labourers- an Interview

Abstract: Kerala witnesses the onrush of migrant workers from the other states of India like West Bengal, Orissa, Assam, and Uttar Pradesh. Interestingly, the size of the migrant workforce in the State almost matched the estimated size of Malayalis working abroad, especially in the Gulf. Philip lose, E. Ibrahim and Chandramohan had a long interaction with a group of workers from West Bengal narrated their lives with astonishing frankness. Seven of them namely, Polash Roy -21- 5th Std. – Utardinajpur, Partha Barman -25-6th Std. -Uttardinajpur, Arjun Barman -17-8th Std. -Chaksibananda, Sagar Barman -20-7th std -Chaksibananda, Bapi Barman -56- 6th Std. -Chaksibananda, Phani Barman -21-12th Std. Uttardinajpur, and Dhani Barman -40 -9th Std. Uttardinajpur, talk to the interviewers in an informal way:

Keywords: Kerala, West Bengal, group of workers, language barriers

Please tell us about your family background?

Most of us are from agricultural peasant families. We suffered from poverty due to the relative unprofitability of agriculture.

What circumstances forced you to come to Kerala?

Unemployment and illness of our fathers, who were the sole bread winners of our families forced us to move outside our states.

How do you reflect on the present improvement in your economic life?

There is a substantial increase in our earnings and we are able to save a considerable amount of money resulting in dramatic increase in our consumption level. Most of us now wear good jeans and have costly multi-featured mobile phones.

What changes have happened in your native place?

The intensity of bondage is ameliorated as we are no longer dependent on the landlords for our livelihood. In due course, there could huge changes in our villages due to this.

What traumatic experiences did you experience?

Very often we are exposed to unfriendly comments and taunts and two levels of prices at shops for the natives and the so-called ‘others.’

How were you recruited? Any middle men?

We arrived at the Ernakulum railway station and waited for someone here to approach us and very rarely is there an agent who recruits.

What are your future plans? Do you plan to say here for long?

We plan to stay here for about five more years till the financial liabilities of our families are solved to an extent.

What is your impact on the society in Kerala?

The shortage of manual labour is solved to an extent though most of us are unskilled teenaged boys.

Do you have any political affiliations?

Most of us are leftist sympathisers since the latter is credited with allotting land to the landless labourers.

What about your women who have come as workers?

These days, hardly any women come to Kerala seeking jobs. The mass migration to Kerala is mostly an all male affair.

What is the role of mobile phone as a cultural artifact?

Mobile phones are an integral part of our lives and we depend on mobile phones to keep in touch with our near and dear ones. Through this process we are able to create an atmosphere of ‘home away from home.’ We are able to share our joys and sorrows, hopes and frustrations.

How do you revive and hold on to memory of your native land?

Mostly through movies and songs in our vernacular languages.

Leisure. How do you spend your leisure time?

We have a carom board, an FM radio and also songs being played on mobile phones. We rarely visit the theatres to watch movies.

What is the attitude of the state towards you. Do you really feel you are under surveillance?

Yes, sometimes but this is not a very severe issue for us.

What is the attitude of the Malayalis?

Unfortunately, many Malayalis treat us as unclean, antisocial elements and potential criminals.

Are you confined to the slums in Kerala?

No, most of us live near our employment sites rented by our employers.

How do you overcome language barrier?

Most of us are quite fluent in Malayalam. We have overcome the language barrier to a great extent.


PHILIP JOSE. Is M.Phil student at the Sanskrit University, Kalady.

E.A. IBRAHIM. Has just completed his graduation in English Literature from Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam.

CHANDRAMOHAN. Is a poet and activist settled in Kochi.

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PHILIP JOSE. Is M.Phil student at the Sanskrit University, Kalady.E.A. IBRAHIM. Has just completed his graduation in English Literature from Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam.CHANDRAMOHAN. Is a poet and activist settled in Kochi.

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