They leave their villages by bus, by cart, or on foot, and head to Hyderabad, the capital of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. An estimated 500,000 families eke out a living working construction and raising families. In the shadow of the high-rises that they build, they live in a sprawl of tents where the smells of pungent spices and milky tea fight with the stench of urine and exhaust.
Day and night, the air thrums with the roar of traffic, the babble of voices, and the buzz of flies. Children play in dirt and brackish water, off the radar of educational and welfare systems. Their parents haul dirt and cement, dig ditches, raise bamboo scaffolding, and, in the case of women, split stones with mallets.
Local and international groups are putting pressure on government and employers to implement a law to protect migrant day laborers. But, for now, these men and women remain the largely unnoticed underbelly of a boom that has made Hyderabad a center for information technology, pharmaceuticals, bio-technology and other high-profile industries.