Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Ramzan in Hyderabad provides livelihood for thousands of migrant workers from north India

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: For Hyderabadis Ramzan is the month of iftaar parties and haleem. But what many do not know is that it is also the month of migration and decent earning for thousands of poor labour. Come
Ramzan and nearly a lakh workers from different parts of the country, particularly the Northeast, descend on the city to eke out a living.
Workers from Manipur, Assam, West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are hired for a month in hotels, shops, mosques, vermicelli, bangle and goldsmith units and haleem outlets on daily wages ranging from Rs 200 to Rs 350. Since Ramzan time is a day-night affair in Hyderabad, most of the labour prefer to work double shifts and pocket almost Rs 700 a day. An average labourer takes home at least Rs 15,000 after a month's work in the city during Ramzan, while some enterprising workers earn enough for a year. Apart from the daily wages, they earn a handsome amount in the form of tips from customers.
To cope up with the extra rush hotels and haleem outlets engage workers on temporary basis. This year about 10,000 workers were hired by restaurants, most of which work round-the-clock during the
Muslim holy month. Hundreds of special haleem units spring up at street corners and busy road junctions during the month. The remaining migrant labour have settled in different works including footpath marketing, a roaring business during Ramzan near Charminar in the old city.
"Hyderabad is fast emerging as a hub of migration during Ramzan. It's quite common for the poor to move to big cities and towns seeking charity during this month. But of late, with economy going up, many poor people are preferring Hyderabad for temporary employment, rather than seeking charity. Our estimates show that around 10,000 workers from the Northeast, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have joined haleem joints and restaurants," says Mohammad Saleem, president of twin cities hoteliers' association.
Lack of work and employment opportunities is said to be forcing the labour from north and north-east India to turn to Hyderabad. The average daily wage they get in their native States do not cross Rs 100,
which means an income of Rs 3000 if they find employment for a month. In contrast, they earn at least five times more in Hyderabad during Ramzan. There are also agents who bring labour to the city and earn commission from hoteliers and shopkeepers.
"We hire dozens of workers, mostly from the north, in our special haleem outlets. We prefer outsiders because they work with dedication. Interestingly, some of them have mastered the art of cooking Hyderabadi dishes. Their income from tips is more than the wages we pay them," observes MA Majeed of Pista House restaurant.
According to social worker Rafia Nausheen, whose organisation Mahita works in slum areas, Ramzan provides livelihood to hundreds of local children too, who otherwise spend time playing on streets.
"These children earn Rs 100 each daily. Since the work they do is not hazardous, we encourage them. Children of migrant labour too are engaged in mobile marketing. They market on platforms ready-made
garments of local shopkeepers and earn a handsome commission," she points out.
Those who have been observing migrant labour from close quarters reveal that around 10 per cent of these workers prefer to settle down in Hyderabad after Ramzan. They are employed at construction workers
in the city outskirts. Says sociologist SS Hussain, "builders generally prefer labour from north India as they report to duty at 7.00 am and work till 6.00 pm, full two hours extra than the local labour. Ramzan in
a way not only helps the poor earn a little more, but also provides them the means of livelihood even after it concludes."
Though nearly a lakh migrant workers throng the city in Ramzan, they do not find the problem of accommodation. While some of them stay in restaurants where they work, most of them settle down in "baadas" in the old city. Since four or five workers share the small tenement, they save on the rent too.
Besides migration labour, Ramzan also witnesses the "migration" of religious scholars who recite the Holy Quran byheart. "A few years ago, hundreds of Hafizs from north India used to lead the special Taravih prayers in mosques. They used to earn quite a good amount at the end of the month. Local devotee too used to give them monetary gifts. But now that Hyderabad itself is producing Hafizs, our scholars are going to other areas to conduct Taravih prayers," says Syed Fazil Hussain Parvez, who edits the Urdu weekly, Gawaah.
There's also a kind of migration from the city. Representatives of madarasas and charitable organisations visit the USA, Saudi Arabia, and other countries in the Arabian Gulf to collect donations and Zakat money from the wealthy there. Most of the madarasas in the city run on Zakat funds collected during Ramzan.

Iftaar parties dwindling in numbers

Iftaar parties are fast dwindling in numbers with the city's Muslim elite preferring charity rather than hosting lavish parties to break the Ramzan fast.
Till a few years ago Hyderabad was a sort of epicentre of Iftaar parties in the country with the high and mighty vying with one another to exhibit their financial prowess. Thanks to intervention of the religious
leaders, most of them now prefer to distribute the money, which they plan to spent on iftaar parties, among the poor and the needy.
Even the moderately rich, who used to host iftaar in mosques, are gradually turning away from the tradition. According to rough estimates, Hyderabad used to spend about Rs 100 crore on iftaar parties untill a couple of years ago. Now much of this money is going towards charity in slums in the city and rural areas in the interiors of Telangana.
Educationist and philanthropist Ghayasuddin Babukhan, who runs the Hyderabad Zakat and Charitable Trust, has decided to provide "Ramzan aid" to about 12,000 families living in villages. The Ramzan
aid is a package that includes new clothes, groceries and dry fruits for breaking the fast. The trust plans to spend Rs 2 crore on charity.
In fact, the Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen broke the tradition of iftaar parties in the city. It has not been hosting iftaar for quite a few years and the money it thus saves is being spent on providing groceries to poor families. "The State government too should stop hosting iftaar and spend the money on scholarships for Muslim students," argues MIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi.
Says Mufti Syed Sadiq Mohiuddin, "the original aim of hosting iftaar parties was to promote communal harmony and friendship among people. But they gradually turned into shows of strength and political
gathering, defeating the original idea behind the event."

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