Why Konyak Nagas lead the local workforce in the construction industry
Construction workers of Konyak Tribe

Mon: With an area of 1,786 sq km and a population of around 2.5 lakh, Mon, one of the biggest districts in Nagaland, predominantly inhabited by the Konyak Naga tribe, leads the local workforce in the State’s construction industry.

Confirming with EastMojo, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Nagaland Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board (NBOCWWB) T Chubayanger said that at present, workers from the Konyak tribe have spread out to various parts of the state, including Kohima, Dimapur, and Mokokchung for construction-related works.

So, EastMojo travelled to the eastern part of Nagaland in Mon district to understand what drives a huge number of the population to take up work in the construction sector as a means of livelihood.

Along the Mon-Wakching road where the two-lane road construction is underway, 17-year-old Nemwang Konyak who has been working as a mason for three years shares his story.

The young mason from Phuktong village around 14 km from Mon town, recounted how he was compelled to join the profession after he dropped out of school. “I studied only till Class VI and left school because I lost interest in studies. My parents and others tried to convince me to resume school but I just couldn’t cope with my studies. Now, I feel like attending school sometimes but I am already late to continue my education and it will also be embarrassing for me,” he said.

At just 15, Nemwang learnt the art of stonemasonry from his father. “Since I was out of school and without any job, I used to accompany my father, who was a stonemason, to his place of work. But after my father, who was the sole bread earner of the family passed away in 2019, I took up the work full-time to look after the family,” Nemwang shared.

In the absence of his father, the eldest son of three children had to take up construction-related works to make ends meet. While his mother, a farmer, now stays mostly at home due to unspecified reasons, he informed that his brother and sister are both pursuing their education at a private school in Mon town.

At present, Nemwang is camped by the roadside, along with three other co-workers as they have been constructing a 150-meter RCC culvert for a few months now. Last year, the young mason returned to the village after nearly 18 months of work at Dimapur.
“I wanted to return home to my village and stay with my family, so I came back. When in Dimapur, I used to earn around Rs 10,000 a month,” he said.

At his current workplace, Nemwang and his co-workers are constructing RCC culverts for Rs 500 per metre. However, the masons have been unpaid for a few months.

He informed that they will only be paid after the completion of the work, which will take a few months. Facing financial constraints, his household, he said, has been functioning with assistance from his relatives.

Like Nemwang, many from the district have taken up construction and other related works at such a young age. It was a common sight to see both men and women engaging in construction-related works across the district.

An official from the Eastern Naga People’s Organization (ENPO), an apex body of the Eastern Nagas, in a conversation with EastMojo at Mon, informed that most construction works, including the construction of buildings, are carried out by the locals.

It was learnt that due to a lack of employment opportunities in the district, many from the district are settled in parts of the state, mostly in the construction sector and as household help. The literacy rate in the district is 56.99%, the lowest in the state.

NBOCWWB CEO opined that the construction sector in Nagaland is a huge employability platform, which is why there is a huge presence of migrant workers in the sector. “Construction is the biggest industry in Nagaland. Many migrant workers are here in the state to work and not for recreation because there is employment. If the number of local workers increase, there will be no requirement to outsource services. About 29% of total spending goes to the sector and it is an industry that will not sleep. So, Nagas must take up more work in the sector,” he added.

As per the NBOCWWB, 4,623 construction-related workers are registered with the Board from the Mon district. There could also be many others from the district registered with the Board in the other districts. However, many like Nemwang Konyak, and other workers, as we reported, remain unaware of the government’s handholding initiatives.

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