Posta, once a fortress of the Bengali mercantile aristocracy, is now the extension of Burrabazaar and home to over 10,000 ‘mutiamojdoor’. It is also home to several fringe groups that make ends meet by the sweat of their brow.
Situated near the Posta Ghat, away from the hustle-bustle of the city, it is a wholesale market of pulses, oil, spices, potato, and other edibles. A habitat to several evicted labourers seeking to sustain themselves, Posta, has the feel of a rural environment. Residents of the place have distinct eating, sleeping, gossiping, and entertainment habits that separate them from their fellow urban citizens.
Originally known as Sutanuti, Posta was a business hub during British rule, run by legendary Bengali merchants and bankers. It was known to be the largest market for European traders who bought spices and oil. Though the city and its landscape have undergone changes in the seven decades after the colonial rule, Posta remains unchanged. In what is seen as a gross violation of labour laws, the labourers (mojdoors) living in the stifling lanes are made to work for hours on end.
Posta is almost like a documentation of several unheard stories of destitution, one of which is that of Anandi Babu, a handicapped, retrenched labourer from Bihar. He lives off the paltry wage he makes by selling chhatu and litti. His family consists of his mother, father, younger brother, wife, four daughters, and a son. With heaps of garbage and filth strewn all over the lanes and by-lanes of Posta, its inhabitants are prone to several diseases like tuberculosis, typhoid, skin diseases, etc. Most of these labourers avoid expensive medication. Many of the residents originally hail from Bihar and had migrated to Kolkata in search of better livelihood opportunities.
According to the statistics provided by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, there are 10,000-15,000 migrants in Posta. The latest census report of the Corporation states that these labourers migrate to the city to earn money and are free to leave whenever they want. However social activist, Dr. Debapriya Mullick states, “This migration is permanent in nature. These labourers are pushed into a vicious cycle of poverty, from which there seems to be no escape. The change in government is a mere cosmetic change. In reality the 200-year-old feudal system still exists.”
Deprived of political rights and basic civic amenities, these labourers are exploited. He added, “Posta market which once extended from Khidderpur to Kashipur, has now shrunk to a small region in Burrabazar.” While Marwaris have taken over most of the businesses that was previously owned by Bengali baniyas, the internal dynamics of the mojdoors and their sardars have not changed. These labourers send their savings to their kin in rural Bihar and other places in India. With the wrenching pain of being separated from their roots and the hope of being able to return to their rural lives someday, these labourers work relentlessly taking each day as it comes.