For Hyderabadis Ramzan has traditionally been the month of iftaar parties and haleem. But what many do not know is that it is also the month of migration and a chance to make decent earnings for thousands of poor labourers. Come Ramzan and nearly one lakh workers from different parts of the country, particularly the Northeast, arrive at the city in search of work.
Workers from Manipur, Assam, West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are hired for a month in hotels, shops, mosques and vermicelli, bangle and goldsmith units and haleem outlets on daily wages ranging from Rs 200 to Rs 350. Since business hours continue almost round-the-clock during Ramzan in Hyderabad, most of these workers put in double shifts and earn almost Rs 700 a day. A daily wage earner takes home at least Rs 15,000 after a month’s work in the city during Ramzan, while some enterprising workers even earn enough for a year. Apart from daily wages, they earn a tidy sum as tips from customers.
To cope up with the extra rush, hotels and haleem outlets engage workers on temporary basis during this time. This year, about 10,000 workers were hired by restaurants, most of which were open round-the-clock during the Muslim holy month. While most workers find employment at the hundreds of special haleem outlets that spring up at street corners and busy junctions during the month, others take up different jobs including footpath vending, 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 the economy improving, many poor people prefer Hyderabad for temporary employment rather than seeking charity. Our estimates show that around 10,000 workers from the Northeast, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal joined haleem outlets and restaurants,” said Mr Mohammad Saleem, president of the Twin Cities Hoteliers’ Association.
Lack of work and employment opportunities is said to be the reason behind labourers from north and northeast India turning to Hyderabad. The average daily wages they get in their native states do not cross Rs100, which means an income of Rs 3,000, 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,” said Mr M.A. Majeed of Pista House restaurant. According to social worker Ms Rafia Nausheen, whose organisation, Mahita, works in slum areas, Ramzan provides livelihoods to hundreds of local children too, who otherwise spend time playing on the streets.
“These children earn Rs 100 each daily. Since the work they do is not hazardous, we encourage them. Children of migrant labourers too are engaged in mobile marketing. They market ready-made garments of local shopkeepers on platforms and earn a handsome commission,” she points out.
Experts say that around 10 per cent of these migrant workers prefer to settle down in Hyderabad after Ramzan. They are employed as construction workers in the city outskirts. Sociologist Mr S.S. Hussain says, “Builders generally prefer labour from North India as they report to duty at 7.00 am and work till 6.00 pm, two hours extra than 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 the month is over.”
The migrant workers also do not have much trouble finding accommodation. While some of them stay in the restaurants they work at, others settle down in “baadas” in the Old City. With four or five workers sharing a small tenement, they save on rent too. Besides labour, Ramzan also witnesses the influx of religious scholars who recite the Holy Quran by heart. “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 devotees 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 Mr Syed Fazil Hussain Parvez, editor of the Urdu weekly, Gawaah.
People also migrate out of the city during this time. Representatives of madrasas 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 madrasas in the city run on Zakat funds that are collected during Ramzan. Deccan Chronicle