BY Neha Sethi, Nazia Jaffri and Kinley Tshering

In the alleys of the adjacent villages of Gurgaon, teeming numbers of migrant workers from across different States live in tiny, dingy rooms, that can barely fit in three people at a time. They pay rents that are humungous compared to the little space they are given.

Meena, 35, a migrant worker from Bihar, lives in a small room at Chakkarpur Village in Gurgaon. She works as a domestic help in one of the towering condominiums in the brighter lanes of the upcoming Gurgaon city. She pays Rs. 2,000 as monthly rent for the room.

“In addition, I pay another Rs. 300 as electricity bill every month. But during summers, the electricity bill goes up to Rs. 400,” Meena says.

This rent may look nominal, but it is atrocious if the space that is provided is taken into consideration. The space of the room is a little bigger than the size of a jhuggi. And for these people who have to manage with a minimal salary, every penny counts. Shelling out so much money on the rent means that they have less to save and send back home.

The development of Gurgaon has led to an upswing in the demand for domestic helps. While this has positive result of increased employment for many migrants, the expensive rents eat away a major chunk of their salary.

“Although we have jobs here, we have to pay almost more than a half of our salary for the rents,” says Maya, who works as a maid. “My husband and daughter, all of us work. Otherwise it would be hard to survive.”

The major beneficiaries however are the people who had been living in Gurgaon villages even before the new Gurgaon came up. Most of them have now built small rooms on the properties that they own and given them on rent to migrant labourers mostly from Bihar and Bengal.

“In most of the villages, the migrant population is a lot more than the people who used to live in the village traditionally,” says Ravinder Kumar, a resident of Sikanderpur village in Gurgaon.

Many of the traditional residents of villages have even built as many as 300 rooms of these kinds to rent out. “Our landlord takes around Rs. 2,000 from every tenant. So he has a monthly income of around Rs. 600,000 just from the rent that he collects from us,” says Meena.

A landlord, who didn’t want to be named, defended, “Why shouldn’t we take rent from them. This is our business. And moreover, these people also earn a lot from the people living in the costly condominiums in Gurgaon.”

A resident of a condominium justifies his point. She says, “We need someone to help us with the housework. I pay my maid around Rs. 2000 just for sweeping the house and cleaning the dishes every month. And she also works in three more houses apart from mine.”

So do the labourers mind shelling out this money? Tell them to move to Delhi, where rents are a little cheaper and pat comes the reply. “But in Delhi, the people don’t pay this much for our services. The people of Gurgaon have more money than the people living in Delhi,” justifies Parmila, a migrant from Bengal who stays in Sikanderpur.