The Road Workers are some of the poorest and most marginalized sections of society. In India, they are mostly migrants from remote villages, often are less educated and not cautious about different preventive measures. Recently I happened to visit one of a road construction site in the outskirts of my hometown and tried to document them at their work.
The road construction workers pave and maintain roads and other surfaces such as runways, parking areas and pathways. Their work involves removal of topsoil from road areas, lay bitumen and concrete, apply gravel, stone chips or asphalt to tar surfaces, dig up road surfaces to lay cables or pipes, and compact and smooth road surfaces. Besides, they also construct and dismantle safety barricades around work sites, direct traffic through the areas, clean work areas, and load and unload equipment into and out of vehicles. They need physical fitness, strength and stamina and also need good hand-eye co-ordination. They are required to work outdoors in all kinds of weather.Conditions may be hazardous and workers are often required to work within strict safety guidelines.
Workers use a range of specialist road working equipment such as rollers, paving machines and drills, as well as shovels, rakes and specialized surveying equipment. They work with materials such as bitumen, concrete and gravel, and used heavy vehicles such as trucks, graders and bulldozers. They handle the heavy machinery, clean and maintain the equipment to ensure its functionality, move and adjust controls to activate equipment and drive and maneuverer machines.
“I have learn the skills on the job from more experienced operators here. I usually work regular hours, but at times required to work at night to reduce the impact on traffic conditions.” remarked a construction worker at the site.
The wage structure of the road construction labor is also found inadequate considering their labor. Majority of unskilled laborers get a wage between 170-225 rupees per day. “Many of us work in nearby tea garden where we earn a meagre 120 rs/day but here we can earn up to 225 rupees per day. Female workers are paid 170 rs/day. But our concern is that the work in this site will be completed in one month time and after that we have to go back to the tea garden work with lesser pay.”- SukdeoMurmu, a labor at the construction site.
These road workers are at a greater risk of developing certain health disorders and sickness as they are exposed to multiple physical, chemical and biological agents, which make them vulnerable to various health problems that includes injuries, respiratory problems, dermatitis, musculo-skeletal disorders and gastro-intestinal diseases.The work is hard physical labor, often under difficult conditions like adverse weather conditions and the nature of work, hours of work, low pay, poor living conditions with lack of basic amenities and separation from family, lack of job security and lack of access to occupational health services make the situation worse.
Due to ergonomic issues they are also vulnerable to degenerative disorders. If the workers are female, the problems at work site and while commuting gets compounded and multiplied. More so if they have small children. There is no system at all to take care of these children at work site. Women laborers have to look after the food and home in addition to their regular work. Majority children are wandering around the site while parents working in the site.What they really need are new skills and new opportunities. But for now, their days are filled with uncertainty.
SukdeoMurmu, a 60 years old worker and the eldest among the workers, smiles innocently “Pet kasawaalhaiji! Hum log kyakare?” he says. ‘It’s about the stomach. What can we do?’
About Amlan Sanyal
My name is Amlan Sanyal. I am a teacher by profession and a freelance documentary photographer based in Siliguri, a small town in sub-Himalayan Bengal.
My interest in photography developed in 2008 while toying around with a compact digital camera. I haven’t stopped taking photographs since I got my first DSLR in 2009. I started taking pictures of strangers on the street. When I started doing this, I had no idea there was an entire genre devoted to it. I have been mostly self taught, drawing most of my education on photography by studying the work of great photographers in this genre. I’ve always been quite an observant person, liking to pay attention to small details. I strive to capture storytelling-images as well as insightful, emotion provoking yet, realistic sort of frames. I love capturing the colorful glimpses of the daily life in India. Street Photography/Documentary is my favorite way of looking at the world and taking photographs gives me the power to stop time, appreciate the truth of the moment and question myself.
Some of my memorable achievements was winning the POTM in Fotoflock, some publications in National Geographic Magazine, Showcase in Smart Photography Magazine, Asian Photography, PhotoPlus Magazine (UK), The DPhoto Inspiration & articles, few international digital salon acceptances. I have also received good placements and reviews in some competitions and my work has been published in various print and online magazines and blogs. I am also a contributor to Getty Images and National Geographic stock photography. But as a great success I consider recognition of people in social networks that follow and appreciate my work regular. Though a teacher by profession, I will always be a student when it comes to photography.
I think you should shoot what makes you happy, not what you think others want to see.
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All the pictures in this post are copyrighted Amlan Sanyal. Their reproduction, even in part, is forbidden without the explicit approval of the rightful owners.