Even vegetables and milk are luxury for Mumbai's construction workers

Mumbai 30-year-old Sujata Paikrao, a construction labourer in Thane, near Mumbai, makes Rs 125 a day by lugging heavy pots of water.

The hard work is taking a toll on her health; she is frail and her three children no better. "I can only afford dal, rice and some chapatis. I cannot afford vegetables and fruits are simply out of the question," she says.

She fled drought-affected Nanded three years ago with her family and came to Mumbai in search of a better life. But the situation is no different here.

When NDTV visited her home at the construction site, we saw a tin shack with no windows, no toilet, and just one chulha (stove) to cook food. The family of five has to squeeze in and sleep as dust and cement from the site swirls through.

Her seven-year-old daughter, the youngest of her three children, is unwell. "She is weak, the doctor says she has less blood," informs Sujata. But she cannot take the day off. No work means no money and it's a luxury that Sujata cannot afford.

At the same site lives Sonali, another construction worker, who has an 11-month-old daughter. The child is weak because of she doesn't get proper food. "By the time we get through buying things of necessity like rice, flour, oil and dal, there is just no money left for vegetables and milk is a luxury," she says.

Malnutrition among construction workers and their families is a hidden problem. There are no real estimates of how many actual workers are employed at these sites since they keep moving. "How do you tackle a problem effectively unless you know the extent of it? These workers are even out of the cover of health posts," says Vaijayanta Anand, from Nirmala Niketan College of Social work in Mumbai.

Story First Published: March 08, 2013 00:57 IST

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