Desperate times for Agra’s railway coolies, lockdowns force many to look for other jobs

Lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic have hit coolies at Agra’s railway stations hard, forcing many of them out of work.

Some of them now pull rickshaws, others work as labourers.

Sharing his ordeal, Munna Khan (50), a coolie at Agra Cantt railway station, told PTI, “There are 102 coolies at the station who are divided into two shifts. In one shift about 52 coolies are allowed to work, but these days only 10-25 coolies are coming due to less number of passengers.”

“Moreover, the passengers avoid taking our service due to fear of COVID-19. This adverse situation is forcing us to do other work to run the house,” he added.

There are about 240 coolies working at four major railway stations in Agra – Agra Cantt, Agra Fort, Raja Ki Mandi and Idgah.

Another coolie at the Agra Cantt station, 40-year-old Fakira shared that he now also pulls a rickshaw as there is no work at the railway station since the outbreak of the second wave of Covid.

“I come to the station in the hope of getting work but spend the entire day sleeping. At night I pull a rickshaw to fulfil the needs of my family,” he said.

Talking about the difficulties, Rajveer said he spends Rs 150 on travelling to the Agra Cantt station from his home, which is about 15 kms away, in the hope to earn some money.

“At the station, I spend my entire day sleeping or waiting for passengers. Most of the day, I don’t get any money,” he said.

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Rajveer further said, “When I don’t get work at the station, I work as a labourer in the city or near my village as I have two daughters and wife at home. My daughters are studying in Class 6 and 7 in a government school.”

Another coolie, Yasin, who used to earn Rs 500-800 daily before the pandemic said it has now become difficult to even earn Rs 200 in a day.

“I have borrowed money from my relatives to bring ration and other household essentials for my family,” he said.

“We are hoping for revival of the good days and hope that soon footfall of the passengers will increase so that we get work,” Yasin said.

Prakriti Arora

I am an 18-year-old knowledge seeker who explores the world with curiosity and wonder. I like to remain trusted, innovative and continually evolve and grow myself through new experiences.

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