Rajnish Mishra | Nov 12, 2018 | 5 min read
No fear of persecution at Alang ship-breaking yard where 85% workforce are migrants
Alang (Bhavnagar): Gujarat is a prosperous state with multiple industries that need to employ people from across states depending on their skill sets and working abilities. The resentment with migrant labourers over lack of jobs for locals that led to wide-spread violence in seven districts across North and Central Gujarat over several days after 28 September, was not reciprocated in other districts like Bhavnagar, where immigrant population constitutes an important part of workforce and the economy.
One such industrial unit is world’s largest ship-breaking and recycling yard at Alang in Bhavnagar district where business ran as usual while other districts like Vadodra, Ahmedabad, Mehsana and Gandhinagar witnessed violence. Located on the shore of Gulf of Cambay, the Alang ship breaking yard has 85-90% of its workforce from outside Gujarat, of which most workers are from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Vipin Chaubey, a labour contractor who hails from Gorakhpur in UP and leads a team of around 400 workers at the yard, says the incidents of attacks on migrant labourers in northern part of Gujarat had no impact on around 10-12,000 odd migrant workers of the yard.
Alang ship breaking yard, which is around 30 km from Bhavnagar and 230 km from Ahmedabad, is spread on a stretch of around 10 km along the sea-shore. It has around 160 plots (units where ships are dismantled), which do not remain operational all at once; it depends on the work available. Each of these units employ around 200 workers and currently, about 80 units are operational.
“We are living peacefully here and there is no problem whatsoever to workers or any other person in Alang. We have not received any threats from anyone and no one has returned home from here. The police have also extended their support,” Chaubey says.
Along the road between Alang and Trapaj, a close-by village on the approach way, is a market for second hand goods taken out of dismantled ships, including catering equipment, furniture etc. While this business is dominated by local Gujaratis who populate the town of Alang and nearby areas, most of the migrant workers reside in the yard itself.
Chaubey said that even when the incidents of attacks were at their peak in parts of north and central Gujarat, there was no feeling of discomfort here. “At Alang, no one is bothered about it (attacks on migrants). Although nothing untoward happened here, yet both Superintendent of Police of Bhavnagar and Deputy SP of Mahuva visited the yard and assured all of us of our safety. They also shared numbers of police officials with us for use in case of any emergency,” says Chaubey, adding that the migrant workers were told to inform the police immediately if they received any threatening or provoking messages on WhatsApp or other social media.
The police action after initial incidents of violence in several districts has been swift. More than 550 persons have been arrested in connection with the incidents of attacks on north Indian labourers, which were triggered after 28 September when an incident of rape of a 14-month-old girl by a migrant labour from Bihar in Sabarkantha district took political undertones.
Though an official figure declaring the number of migrant labourers leaving Gujarat due to these incidents has not been released, news reports put the figure to as high as 50,000 from across the state. Production in several industrial units has reportedly been hampered.
However, perhaps due to the almost absolute dominance of such migrants in Alang ship-breaking yard and their living in groups, they feel safer than others. Another labourer from Bihar, Arvind Singh, confirms that there was no stress of being targeted in Alang. “We have no difficulty (due to the recent incidents) and all of us are living peacefully here,” he says. There is a sense of community among workers from other states like UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha and even from Nepal, who live together in a particular area around the yard.
Reasoning why migrant workers in Alang were not bothered by the recent developments against their kind in the state, Ram Patel, vice-president, Alang Sosiya Ship Recycling and General Workers Association, says it is largely because not even a single incident of hate crime against migrant labourers was reported from Alang, or even Bhavnagar district, for that matter.
Patel adds that locals constitute only around 10-15% of workforce at the yard, as the nature of maximum work is not lucrative, rather tedious and hazardous, which the migrant labourers take up readily. The Gujaratis living in and around Alang are into various businesses associated with the ship breaking work, so perhaps, they wouldn’t be interested in hampering work at the yard, explains Patel.
(The author is Ahmedabad-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters)
Videos: Arvind Bhatti
Photos: Hemrajsinh Vala
My name is Vipin Chaubey. I am from Gorakhpur, UP. Alang hasn't seen any problems. We are living and working peaecfully here. Everyone is good to us.
I am Arvind Singh from Bihar. In Alang, there are no problems. Things are as they have always been. We haven't been facing any difficulties and are living here peacefully.
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