Most Indian cities reeling from labour crisis in election season

English | 18 May, 2024 | 10:11 AM
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Mumbai: Late last month, staffing company Quess Corp flew about 100 unorganised workers from Bihar and Jharkhand to meet an urgent demand for manpower from a multinational client in Hyderabad, because it couldn’t find enough workers in the southern city.

Most Indian cities are facing a labour crisis in this scorching summer of elections as scores of migrant workers have gone back to their villages where they are earning more from election-related work.

The second-longest Lok Sabha elections in the history of the nation spanning 44 days have thrown up a slew of handsome and instant earning opportunities for migrant workers back home, from attending election rallies and door-to-door pamphlet distribution to tenting, vehicle business, catering and food supply.

Take the case of Ajay Singh, 30, from Pratapgarh in Uttar Pradesh who was earning Rs 14,000 a month working at a DMart store in a Mumbai suburb. Now, he is making Rs 800-1,000 per day attending rallies of various political parties back home in UP.

“I am earning about Rs 22,000-24,000 a month by just going to rallies,” Singh told ET. “All political parties need to gather a crowd.” He is busy attending the poll campaigns of different parties – BJP, SP, Congress, BSP – on different days and does not plan to return to his Mumbai job till the elections are over.

UP, Bihar and West Bengal — which are among the largest suppliers of migrant workers in the country — are the only three states where the elections are being held in all seven phases, from April 19 to June 1. This has led to an acute shortage of workers in migrant-dependent states such as Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Delhi-NCR.

“We are booking coaches in trains and flight tickets to meet our clients’ demand for manpower but a lot of the migrants — mostly from UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal — want to stay in their hometowns and make full use of the election season,” said Lohit Bhatia, president of workforce management at Quess Corp.

Many companies are going all out to attract workers by offering attractive perks such as taking care of their accommodation, food, and travel. “Due to extreme heat and summer conditions, along with elections in various states — where financial incentives around temporary roles have significantly engaged local populations — intra-state availability of migrants has temporarily dipped by 15% and interstate by 22%,” said Kartik Narayan, CEO, staffing, at TeamLease Services.

The shortage is felt across construction, manufacturing and services sectors for roles including machine operators, material handlers, welders, salespeople, service technicians, delivery and warehouse professionals, besides in facility management and food services, industry insiders said.

Alok Kumar, president – manpower at ManpowerGroup India, said labour demand from political parties for their campaigns has created a gap in the supply of migrant labourers and blue-collar casual workers. “The employers are patiently waiting for the elections to get over and trying to cope with the gaps,” he added.

Larsen & Toubro has seen a 10-15% depletion in labour strength across projects in recent months. The engineering company has now deputed teams to villages across some eastern and northeastern states to re-mobilise labour. “This year, the movement has been slightly more because of the elections,” an L&T spokesperson said. “We expect the situation to stabilise by the second week of June.”

Quess has started interactive job spots with counselling rooms at the bus stops of some of the largest industrial hubs such as Hosur, Chakan, outskirts of Pune, Krishnagiri, Noida, Tirupur, Sri City, and Narasapura to hire talent as soon as they land.

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