Discounted rights for unaccounted populations: Access to finance as a basic human right

By Ayushi Shukla

Ayushi works with Shram Sarathi as an India Fellow and is working on improving banking access among migrant communities in southern Rajasthan.

 

Human rights blog

It’s a December morning.

Vardi bai started her day earlier than usual. 30 years of marriage has changed many things, but mornings still remind her of her mother’s house. The liberty of remaining in the warmth of a blanket for a little longer is no more hers to take.

She walked to the cattle-house while rubbing her sleepy eyes. Gathered fodder and checked the water tank, nearly empty. She picked the vessels and walked around half a kilometer to fetch water from the well. Today, she took an additional trip, to provision it until she returns. Catching a breath, she milked the cow and lit the chulha.

As the room started to fill with the aroma of tea, Kesulal woke up. With palms still warm by the teacup, he walked out to tie the bulls back to the hook. By dawn, Vardi bai was ready with a 3 boxed tiffin for him, with Makka ki roti, vegetable and khaati chhach in it. After requesting a neighbor to take care of the children, they paced on the trails. The sky started to light up in the middle of their hour long journey.

The hamlet called ‘Sapra’ is scenically mesmerizing. 35-40 houses settled near the bank of a brook, scattered around Aravali hills. The residents migrate for a major part of the year, under distress, to find labor-intensive work in the cities.

The trails ended at an old nearly-absent concrete road. A few moments passed before they sighted a jeep, carrying passengers twice its capacity. Kesu lal made space for Vardi bai by the driver’s side and secured a seat on the roof for himself. The chilly wind pierced through his muffler, while the jeep covered nearly 25 kms. of distance.

The jeep stopped at Gogunda, the nearest block. But the journey hasn’t ended for Kesu lal. He saw Vardi bai off at closed gates of a bank and boarded a crowded bus to Udaipur.

Udaipur is the largest district in south Rajasthan, with 78% of the total population being tribal. At the end of the bus ride, he found himself waiting at Naka with countless other laborers, approaching every vehicle stopping there, in hope of work; and a day’s wage. All faces at the Naka carries wrinkles, some due to age, most due to worries. Kesulal had an additional worry for Vardi bai today.

It was 2 hours before the bank opens. The queue started to grow. Standing in the queue, she thought about all the days that she had worked in National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) and estimated how much her account balance should be. The officer at panchayat had said that the wages should be credited by now. She was hoping today would be the day when the wait would be over, the payday!

She looked around in search of friendly faces, a radar to pick whom she could ask for a favor. Most of the people in the queue weren’t literate, just like her. She asked the doorman to fill the withdrawal slip for her. This was an usual affair for the doorman. He filled the slip and demanded 10 rupees. Vardi bai paid with a dismal look in her eyes.

By the time clock struck 10, more than two dozen people queued up. The flood of people shifted to the counters as soon as the door opened. Vardi bai approached the counter with the withdrawal slip. The cashier, sitting at the other side of the counter, checked her account and declared that it had insufficient balance.

She suddenly felt poor(er). She couldn’t believe it. She asked the cashier to check again. The cashier seemed cold and uninterested. He intimidated her into leaving the counter. She left and queued in front of another counter. This counter was for updating bank passbooks. At the other end of another long queue, the officer updated it. She looked for another friendly face to ask for yet another favor. She needed someone to tell her how much money she had. She wasn’t literate. The doorman told her that her balance was, in fact, insufficient.

This wasn’t the first time she was leaving empty-handed. It was her fourth trip this month.

She is not the only one. This is the story of every other family living around Gogunda tehsil in Udaipur district. Hundreds of people, entitled to public welfare schemes, unable to benefit from them, due to lack of access to their own money.

Vardi bai is one of the many ladies who join the workforce under NREGS to get dignified work opportunities and equitable pay. For better monitoring and transparency, the wages for work done under NREGS are deposited directly into the bank account of workers. This is a welcome step, aimed at protecting workers against bureaucracy and corruption. Due to poor banking infrastructure in these geographies, low literacy and awareness, what aimed to be a catalyst for development turned out to be a blatant denial of their right to their own money.

After days of hard work, the wages may take a week to three months to show up. The transfer of payment depends upon documentation and other formalities, the completion of which entirely depends upon Panchayat officers. With so many layers of administration, the population is often denied access to reliable information as well.

The degree of financial dependence on wages is very high for the families. Making such trips to the bank don’t only result in physical and emotional distress, it also results in an outflow of money. The loss is magnified when the transfers are made into men’s accounts for women’s work. A day in the queue for banking means a day with no wages. No wages, at times, means no food.

Other social security and development schemes, such as – old age pension, widow pension, scholarship, LPG subsidy, Awas Yojana suffer the same fate. During my time with the community, I witnessed several incidents of senior citizens queuing up for hours every day. Women with infants, traveling along with them, dangerously, on the roofs of crowded jeeps. The benefits don’t trickle down in an intended manner. It is strange how the lack of access is slowing the pace of development. It is often said, that “Justice delayed is justice denied”, shouldn’t this also be true for access to one’s own finances?

Access to finance is not commonly seen as a human right. But the time delays and costs involved in accessing one’s own finances along with the lack of information contributes to a violation of many other human rights such as access to food, shelter, healthcare, dignified old age, etc. Shouldn’t access to finance then also be a universal human right?

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Unfinished Houses, Unfulfilled Lives

By Rupal Kulkarni and Shriram Padmanabhan, Rajasthan Shram Sarathi Association

Hurji Meena and Chunna Ram Gameti, two migrants from southern Rajasthan separated by over 200 kilometres have never met, but have much in common. Chunnaram, a migrant from Gogunda tehsil, had spent the last 6 years constructing a pakka (concrete) house. He was confident that in another 4-5 years, the house would finally be complete and until then his family was content living in the mud house they had built for themselves. Hurji, another migrant from Salumbar tehsil was also constructing his house for the past 3 years, with his family cramped up together in their mud house. Overnight though, this changed. Both their mud houses collapsed in a bout of heavy rainfall. Their pakka house was only one-third done. It didn’t have doors, windows or even a roof. With all their savings invested in the concrete house, both families had no resources to start rebuilding the mud house. By this time, they had also borrowed significantly from friends, family and their contractors and had no more money to quickly complete the pakka house. For the next four years, both Hurji and Chunnaram’s families lived under a plastic sheet in their partially constructed concrete house.

Hurji Mud House

Hurji’s mud house collapsed during the monsoons, forcing his family to live under a plastic sheet for nearly four years.

In the villages of southern Rajasthan, seasonal migration is a rapidly growing livelihood strategy. Lakhs of men migrate to neighbouring districts, Gujarat and Maharashtra in search of work. Interestingly, for a majority of these families, the single most important aspiration is to construct and own a pakka house in their villages. Any surplus income from migration is invested in constructing a house until it is complete.

In southern Rajasthan, it takes a migrant family an average of four years to build a simple two-room house. The same house can be constructed in three months with access to affordable and adequate finance. The lack of formal land documentation in tribal areas hinders traditional collateralized housing finance. Mainstream financial institutions have either not created suitable products or distribution channels to reach migrant workers in such areas.

In the absence of any formal financial access, typically the house is constructed incrementally, as and when the migrant has some surplus money left or when informal borrowings are possible. In several cases, systems of communal labour help but also delay construction, wherein construction depends on the availability of a friend/neighbour.

Countless interviews reveal that a migrant family manages to construct up to six feet with some informal assistance. The construction and completion of the roof is a phase that requires a large quantum of funds within a short time period. Work on the roof cannot be completed piece-meal but has to be completed at one go. The large amount of funds required also means that this is the phase that requires the longest waiting time among all phases of house construction, often stalling construction for a minimum period of 18 months.

Navla Gameti for instance, started constructing his house in 2004. After exhausting all avenues of financing, he waited a decade to start again. When asked why he waited 10 years, he said ‘We save and build incrementally but there are numerous other unexpected events that occur during this duration, and our funds get diverted elsewhere’. The decision to build a house in a piecemeal manner thus results in diversion of funds, additional debt and a 2 times increase in the cost of building a house over a four-year period. In Navla’s case this would be much higher.

Navla Gameti

Navla Gameti with his family: He waited 10 years before resuming the construction of his house, more than doubling the overall cost of construction.

Vaktaram Meghwal’s preoccupation was with safety. As a migrant with a kaccha house, who is away working in the city, he was always pre-occupied with his family’s living situation and safety back home. The monsoons are quite challenging – if it rains at night, a roof that has not been reinforced starts dripping and the family is up at 1 a.m. huddled into a corner.

Unfinished Houses

Exclusion of migrants from financial services can leave houses unfinished, without a roof, doors or windows, for several years before construction is completed.

His choice was to not migrate altogether for 3 months during the monsoons, when the risk to his family’s safety was highest (risk of the roof/entire house collapsing) and in the process forgo a chance to earn better wages. For Vaktaram, an incomplete house also meant that he couldn’t work for long periods at destination even when he migrated. He would work hard in small bursts of 2-3 months, accumulate money, come back home and then continue the construction process. With a complete house, he could think of working for longer periods of time on more lucrative contracts. Just a few kilometres away from Vaktaram’s house, Fateh Lal, who used to work in Ahmedabad earlier, has now come back to Gogunda, reluctantly accepting a 25% wage cut in exchange for looking out for his family living in a precarious kaccha house.

Vaktaram Meghwal

Vaktaram Meghwal chose not to migrate for three months during the monsoons for fear of his family’s safety living in an unfinished house.

For some other families in the region, the inability to construct a house can even result in desperate financial choices, which often curb freedoms. Nathu Gameti, for instance, borrowed 30,000 rupees from multiple informal moneylenders to construct his house. Despite crowdsourcing this loan, the amount is hardly sufficient to complete the house. To avoid losing his land, Nathu’s two sons began migrating in their teens. Similarly Mangilal Gameti borrowed a measly 4,800 rupees for critical repairs to his crumbling mud house. He couldn’t repay the moneylender on time due to a sudden illness and instead found himself in an undignified arrangement of pledged labour with the moneylender, with restrictions on his ability to migrate elsewhere for work.

Nathu Unfinished House

Nathu’s two teenage sons had to migrate in order to pay back informal loans taken to construct their house. Their house is still not complete, but the loan has compounded to nearly three times.

The experiences of all these migrant families point to three very important conclusions. Firstly, having a pakka house at source is the single most important goal that migrant families have and in case of incomplete houses, any cash surplus keeps pouring into construction, leaving little for the attainment of any other meaningful goals or aspirations. Delays in construction will therefore only result in delaying other important goals for the family.

Secondly, the precarity of housing conditions at source are an important determinant of their work choices and experience at destination. A migrant with a crumbling or semi-finished house in the village is less likely to work on longer contracts, is more likely to have fewer days of employment (and consequently lesser income) and is more likely to make sub-optimal migration choices. And finally, the exclusion of migrant communities from access to finance for housing can result in forced financial choices, debt-bondage like conditions and migration that is driven by distress.

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Dignified Housing: A Broken Dream for India’s Labour Migrants

By Nivedita Jayaram, Centre for Migration and Labour Solutions

India’s cities rely on a large and growing number of rural labour migrants to power their expanding industrial and infrastructural development. Without official count or identity in the cities, this large and floating community provides flexible and cheap labour while being stripped of its rights, including to dignified housing.

Earning less than a living wage, migrant workers cannot afford to live in urban slums, resorting instead to deplorable informal settlements—open spaces including under flyovers, near railway tracks and on pavements; in unhygienic, crammed shared rooms or within their worksites. The nature of these living arrangements intensifies the exploitation that migrant workers face in informal labour markets, where they perform risky and strenuous manual labour.

Due to their transient relationship with the city, and the complex mobility and informality that inform their presence there, government housing schemes centred around permanent housing are not feasible for migrant labourers. Their needs and expectations from housing remain focused on spaces where they can achieve peace and rest after backbreaking work in the labour market, without having to spend additional hours seeking out basic needs such as water and sanitation.

As such, migrant workers benefit from housing that is separate from their workplace, so that they can leave the worksite after work hours. In cases where workers live on the worksite, they are susceptible to longer hours of work and constant exploitation by their employers or contractors. They prefer living with their communities so that they may recreate their villages within the hostile and alien city, and use their social networks to survive in an environment that constantly excludes them.

Despite the specific needs of 140 million migrant workers, however, urban policies remain fixated on the idea of home as a permanent and final product to be purchased in the market, or on slum redevelopment efforts, leaving them out of the imagination of India’s cities.

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(In)Visible Work, Invisible Violence

The many facets of violence faced by adivasi women workers who migrate to the city and work as daily wage construction labourers

By Drishti Agarwal, Family Empowerment Programme

Every day an average of 25000 people are moving across state borders for work (Economic Survey 2016-2017). Most of these are from the poorer states who are forced to head to a nearby city looking for any work for which they can exchange their labour because back home, their villages cannot provide for even a day’s work. This renders 60 million people as inter-state migrants annually.

Ironically, the literature on internal, seasonal labour migration in India is predominantly male-centric. With 85% of the short distance, seasonal migrants being recorded as male (Srivastava, 2011) the migration journey undertaken by the women is largely hidden. It either tends to focus only on family-based migration or migration due to marriage.

The lack of female representation in the national migration trend suggests that women’s migration for work has been completely overlooked. This further sideline their experiences of violence, leaving no space for the policies to be improved. This article attempts to analyze the multifaceted violence through a gender lens and urges that the policy needs to be aware of this and take steps to combat it.

There has been a rapid feminization of informal labour over the past 30 years, with an increasing participation of women in domestic work, construction work, and home-based work. According to the world bank, more than 80% of women are engaged not just in informal work but in the most vulnerable forms of informal work.  In fact, Adivasi women are unable to access the better paying or less intermediated (with contractor types) jobs – such as the garments sector but are stuck either with home-based work, domestic work or even construction largely – the last being the third biggest employer of women, particularly Adivasi (CWDS 2012 article). Because of long contracting chains in construction or the lack of employer-employee relations in domestic, or home-based work, the work performed by women workers remains evasive and unaccounted for.

What is more, pertaining to this invisibility is the experience of violence in the city, that unleashes itself in many different forms and in many different ways. For a woman involved in the informal sector, the city poses various challenges, breaking not just her body but even her spirit. We see a stark similarity in the way different forms of violence; physical, verbal, sexual, economic and structural; cuts across these categories of home, state and the labour market. All of the violence, in its various forms, perpetrated either by the state, or the contractor, the labour market or the husband himself have the same effect on the women in terms of women’s safety, dignity and her well-being.

 Despair in the private sphere

We will wash his feet and drink that water. Even then he will call us a fool”, says Premlata behen who hails from Khedi Panchayat in Madhya Pradesh. Premlata is among 40-50 other women who work at a construction site in Makarba, Ahmedabad. She shared her plight during a parent meeting at the crèche where her grandchild stays while the family toils at the construction site. When the crèche worker asked all the women to share their experiences of facing violence, inside or outside her home, Premlata behen, feeling dismayed said, “this (domestic violence) happens in all the families. It is nothing new. Only 25 out of 100 families are happy where the man does not beat his wife. Otherwise, all men are the same”.

Premlata behen speaks for the many women who come to the city with their husbands in search of work. After toiling at the construction site for the whole day and performing all the household duties, the women face continuous violence from their husbands, both verbally and physically. One woman who did not want to be named said, “we have been taught that our husbands are our gods. Whatever they say and do is our fate. What can we possibly do if they hit us?”.

Domestic violence is just one form of oppression that women workers face in the country. The city poses its own threats, as does the construction site with other male workers and contractors. Finally, the labour market itself extracts these women relentlessly.

Women neither have any ownership of resources; the land, the house, farm equipment; nor has any right in its management. In many instances, the women do not even know what her wages are or who the employer is. This is mainly because they are kept away from negotiating the terms at work and their wages, that their economic identity as an earning member gets blurred. This further reduces them to being as secondary actors in the family.

 

IMG-20180620-WA0004

Women recount their stories of domestic abuse during a crèche meeting in Makarba, Ahmedabad.

Women in the megacities

Most everyday commodities, goods and services we use, are made through backbreaking work done by the worst paid and un-unionized workers, a large majority of whom are from historically disadvantaged social groups of Dalits and Adivasis. The women in these groups constitute an even poorer and more vulnerable category of workers, who perform major chunks of the work, while facing debilitating violence at the same time, domestically, from employers and in public spaces in the city.

When in the city, the experience of violence is compounded by the ever-contested war of the migrants’ right to the city. Neither do these families have a living space nor have access to any of the basic entitlements of ration, healthcare and water, in the new city. Even a simple act of relieving oneself becomes a battle in the absence of properly functioning public toilets. Since, neither the employer nor the contractor takes any responsibility for the workers, they are forced to live in the open spaces making them susceptible to sexual violence. Aajeevika’s engagement with the women workers in Banswara suggests that the incidents of abuse and harassment are quite pervasive among the women at the destination. According to their testimonies, drunkards passing by at night, come and sleep with them. There have also been cases of robberies during the night. Such an experience confronts these families and especially women with the omnipresent structural violence performed by the state. They are completely forced to the margins, denied not only a living space but their right to citizenship.

IMG_20180619_181630271_HDR

A construction site in the Makarba area in Ahmedabad. Small makeshift arrangements surround the site, where a multi-national office is being constructed

The super exploitative labour market

The labour market experience starts with doubling of woman’s responsibilities, forcing her to balance her family and her work. For a woman employed at a construction site, the day starts at 4 a.m. or sometimes at 3 a.m. After undergoing her morning chores of searching for a toilet, fetching water, preparing food for the family, she along with her husband leaves for work by 8. After an arduous 12-hour work shift, the day is only half finished for the woman. She now has to go back and mend to her family’s demands. It is only after making the next day’s arrangements that the woman can finally go to sleep.

It is not just the physical labour that a woman does at the construction site but the enormous unpaid care work for the whole family that largely remains undervalued and unaccounted for. As Deepta Chopra suggests a wider understanding of economic empowerment needs to be adopted. We need to take into account the participation of women in both the market economy as well as the care economy, ‘which sustains and nurtures the market economy’, to have a long-term economic growth.

The labour market extracts from these women workers not just physically but sexually and emotionally as well while denying them an equal wage or even the identity of a worker. Even after contributing to the best of their abilities, both domestically and professionally, women workers are perceived as less suitable for work on the basis of strength and knowledge. Their work largely remains unskilled and includes head loading, filling and being a help to the mason (skilled worker). When in reality, women end up carrying more weight than the men and also spend more time at the site. This gender-based discrimination at the workplace not only denies the woman a higher salary but the identity of a worker.

The labour market exploitation is compounded by the constant threat of sexual and verbal abuse from the contractors and other male workers at the site. They are under a constant male gaze and never really feel relaxed. The contractor feels justified in abusing women workers if the work is not done properly. As per the testimonies of the women workers in Banswara, since, they live in dera (a place where many people live together) or work alone at the site while their husbands work at a distance, other male members try to take advantage of them. Fearing social disapproval and having no faith in the police, such cases of sexual harassment never comes to the forefront.

The policies related to women’s safety needs to take cognizance of the different forms of violence unpacked in the article through a gender lens. Without due recognition, steps cannot be taken to combat the issues.  The policy needs to be aware of violence in this multifaceted way and look at the most invisible populations who experience it the most. As stated before, the tribal women make up the majority of the workforce in the most vulnerable forms of informal work. And yet, they do not have any social space and dignity in the ‘host state’, even when they play a substantial role in its prosperity and growth. As Kiran Desai claims, the labouring poor have completely vanished from the entire discourse on ‘development’.

As far as the women themselves are concerned they acknowledge the ever-looming violence at home, at the construction site and in the city, yet migrating for work still remains a preferred option for them. “We go to the city to work, rather than stay here and die of hunger”, feels Ramli Bai, who is back home in Kushalgarh (Banswara) for the harvesting season and would soon leave for Ahmedabad with her family.

 

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The Diwali Bonus: Out of the Reach of Millions

By Raghav Mehrotra, Centre for Migration and Labour Solutions

For decades, the “Diwali bonus” has been an integral part of employees’ festive seasons. Every year, employers hand out cash or sweets or clothes to spread the Diwali spirit. Commonly, the bonus is understood as a form of giving back—one of many gifts commonly distributed during the festival.

Less widely known, however, is that there is a law governing the Diwali bonus.

According to the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, any employee earning less than Rs.21,000 per month at a company that has been profitable for that year and employs at least 20 people, is entitled to an annual payment equaling at least one month’s salary. Historically, this bonus has been paid on or around Diwali—hence the name.

For companies to which the Act applies, the distribution of a Diwali bonus is a regulated action that appears on official accounts. In fact, for certain employees, the bonus might even be taxable, which means both employer and employee must declare it on their fiscal year end returns.

But this also means that to begin with, a worker must have a monthly wage to legally qualify for a bonus. As such, by its very structure, and through the formal bookkeeping it requires, the Act excludes 93 percent of India’s workforce—unorganized workers who do not appear on company payrolls, often earn daily wages, and who are among India’s most vulnerable. Construction labourers, domestic workers, taxi drivers, security guards and farmers all belong to the country’s vast unorganized economy. A full cash bonus is something they receive only if they are lucky.

93 percent of India’s workforce is unorganized

The non-inclusion of such workers under the Bonus Act is symptomatic of a larger invisibility of labour, particularly migrant labour, in the eyes of the state and industry.

For instance, the work performed by millions of domestic workers—cooking, washing, cleaning—falls out of the purview of most of the state’s labour laws, including the Payment of Bonus Act. As such, they might receive old clothes, utensils or mithai as the “Diwali bonus” for their hard work, despite the fact that they earn less than the stipulated Rs.21,000 per month. Taking note of this, the National Platform for Domestic Workers submitted a bill to the government in January 2017, and included a formal cash bonus as one of its demands.

As families celebrate Diwali this year, it is important to recognize the unorganized labour that makes these festivals possible—from stone carvers whose idols decorate mandirs and embroidery workers whose detailed designs line shop windows, to domestic workers who are constantly available to ensure that planned celebrations run smoothly. While the law excludes them in more ways than one, their work is an integral part of our economy.

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The Unending War Towards Asserting Citizenship Rights. Adivasi women in Southern Rajasthan stand up against their oppressors

By Drishti Aggarwal, Family Empowerment Programme

What do you do when the democratic methods of accessing your rights by following the right procedures do not work? When your every complaint is met with a careless remark by the authorities?

The women described in this article provide a perfect example of what happens when the most marginalized are repeatedly denied their rights. They are only left with a sense of assertion and their knowledge to demand their entitlements. This is an account of rural Adivasi women changing the face of citizens’ action by devising new ways to fight the ever-oppressive local administration.

Last month, 10 women from Deepala and Kalaswa panchayats of Kherwada block decided to collectively address the issue of ration that the women in their panchayats had been facing for two months. The ration dealer refused to give the women their designated food grains under the Public Distribution System on the pretext that there was no ration. When the issue was discussed in the Ujala Samooh meeting (a local women’s solidarity group in the village), 10 women from the samooh, including the samooh leaders, went to the ration dealer in Deepala. They made a demand for their entitled ration for the current month as well as the previous month.

The ration dealer, who had never witnessed such a defying act by a group of women, especially those belonging to the tribal community, was shocked. He denied there being any government provision for receiving two months’ ration together.[1] However, the women had prepared for such a backlash from the dealer. They refused to leave the shop without taking their full ration. Enraged, they said to the dealer, “You can either lock all of us inside the shop and leave because we will not go without taking our ration today, or we will lock you inside and wait till you agree to disperse the food grains.”  The dealer had to finally comply and give them their due ration.

MVI_5383An Ujala Samooh leader examining a member’s ration card during a samooh meeting in Salumbar, Udaipur.

This display of anger is not common among the tribal women of this region, but a century-old subjugation of the Adivasi community has created a simmering sense of fury. In fact, the category of actors responsible for historically exploiting the Adivasis has broadened. Petty government employees who have been made responsible for delivering people’s basic entitlements have now joined the cadre of exploitative landlords and moneylenders who assume positions of power in the villages.

In another incident of challenging the otherwise indisputable power of the village administration, women from theKhojaghati panchayat in Kherwada displayed great valour. After repeated denial of NREGA work from the panchayat samiti (rural local governments at the intermediate level in Panchayati Raj Institutions) without any valid reason, women workers from the area decided to address the matter in the Ujala Samooh meeting as well as with the panchayat officials.

When the officials at the panchayat samiti refused to hear them out, the determined women approached the Sachiv (panchayat official responsible for allocating work under NREGA) asking for work.

“We have been asking for work for 2 months, but no one at the Panchayat Samitiis willing to listen to us. Now, either sanction us work or we will work in your house,” claimed Kamla, the community volunteer responsible for the women’s solidarity group in her panchayat, Khojaghati. Reflecting on the importance of her actions, she said, “It was difficult to think of any consequences [during that time]. We started to clean the Sachiv’s house, and he just stood there, ashamed.” The Sachiv later had to comply and provide them work under NREGA.

The women solidarity groups were formed around 2 years ago in the panchayats in and around Kherwada. Since then, they have been giving women an opportunity to meet and discuss their lives, collectively devising responses to everyday challenges. Gradually, the Ujala Samoohs recognized the need to collectively demand public entitlements in the villages.

In the absence of any male members in local families—over 80 per cent from Southern Rajasthan having migrated to Gujarat or Maharashtra for work—officials, handling programs from NREGA to PDS, have been acting as demigods in the area. Assuming that women do not have any knowledge about their rights or even the courage to speak in front of the village officials (mostly men), they never regarded women as equal citizens who could demand their rights.

It is only recently that the women’s solidarity groups in the area have begun to develop a comprehensive understanding of their public entitlements and the right channels to access them. And they are constantly being tested—from having to make continuous demands of the administration to develop effective ways to monitor its functions.

 Combating the issue of violence

With this newly found knowledge, the women Samoohs are beginning to develop a strong foundation of collectively making claims to their public entitlements. The women in the samoohs are now breaking their boundaries and inhibitions to talk about their lived experiences with each other. They are now moving past the issues concerning their family members, such as access to ration and NREGA work, towards speaking about their personal well-being within the family. Samooh women address the issues of abuse and violence inflicted on them by their relatives, bringing them closer together. This has urged them to devise collective ways of combating violence. Such a community response towards violence becomes important in an Adivasi community like these which largely remains outside the purview of the formal legal system.

The Ujala Samooh in Malpur, a village under the Salumbar block of Udaipur district, recently successfully intervened in a case of domestic violence. By drawing support from each other, they protected a woman from facing abuse from her husband.

The husband had set up a liquor shop and expected his wife, who was also an Ujala Samooh member, to look after the shop. As she started getting hold of the business, the husband started becoming violent with, suspecting her of having an affair. After repeated efforts by the samooh to get the husband to stop the beatings, he did not comply. Eventually, the samooh went to the woman’s house and vandalized the liquor shop. The sudden act of defiance shocked the husband and brought him to his senses. He agreed to mend his actions and take up another job.

Towards becoming political actors

In Aajeevika’s experience of the last 6 years of working with the rural adivasi women through the solidarity groups, we saw women progressing from being defenceless to use their agency and their language of rights to overcome their challenges. It is through these disruptive methods that the woman can be called a political being who is engaging with her surroundings. She is making demands for the rights that have been granted to her by the state. Overall, the women now show greater comfort and confidence in dealing with the men in the community. This is in stark contrast to the earlier stories, shared by the women themselves, which tell us that they were hesitant to talk to the men, even their own husbands. Now, however, with an elevated sense of their own citizenship, these women refuse to feel small and inconsequential in front of anyone. They have been able to convert the previous sense of fear and insecurity into a collective force.

The fact that the women make claims on the government’s schemes gives them the identity of empowered citizens. It is through this ability of claim-making that the women are able to imagine an alternate reality for themselves where they have the right to work and the basic amount of food grains to lead a healthy life. They are together able to visualize a reality where their lives are healthy, happy and free of violence. The Ujala Samoohs have been instrumental in bringing women out of their sense of helplessness and insecurity to realize the ‘power within.’

(Aajeevika Bureau has been facilitating the formation of the women solidarity groups under its Family Empowerment Programme. In the past 6 years, over 12000 women have been mobilized in 6 blocks of 4 districts of Udaipur, Dungarpur, Banswara and Rajsamand. These women have been relentlessly making claims over their public entitlements. Around 25 women from these solidarity groups have also won prominent positions in the local elections.)

[1] Under the National Food Security Act the Public Distribution System, beneficiaries can collect their ration for two months together if they had missed the previous month’s ration due to some unavoidable reason.

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Women Homeworkers in Earring Assembly Work in Mumbai

By Nisha Bharti, Aajeevika Bureau, Mumbai centre

Aajeevika Bureau’s Mumbai centre has started an initiative to explore different types of employment in which Odiya migrant women residing in the Netaji Nagar locality are engaged. This piece captures the socio-economic profile of three women home workers who assemble different parts of ear rings in their homes. We have explored the different reasons which prompt them to work from home even though they could have sought employment in any of the different small manufacturing units near their homes.

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They get two types of cards. One card for 12 pairs of ear-rings and another for 18 pairs of ear-rings.  Group of women engaged in 1st type work get 25 paisa if they are working on cards for 12 pairs of earrings and 35 paisa if they working on cards for 18 pairs of earrings.  Women engaged in 2nd type of work get 25 paisa for putting glue and sticking beads on card for 12 pairs of earrings and 35 paisa for putting glue and sticking beads on cards for 18 pairs of earrings. Women engaged in 3rd type of work are paid the amount of 50 paisa for 12 pairs of earrings and 70 paisa for 18 pairs of earrings.

These women are paid for every 100 cards. Those engaged in first and second type of work are paid Rs. 25 and Rs. 35 for working on the 100 cards for 12 pairs and 18 pairs of ear-rings respectively. Those engaged in third type of work earn Rs. 50 and Rs. 70 for working on the cards of 12 pairs and 18 pairs of ear-rings respectively.

These women generally get 400 cards in stock. It takes 4-5 days in completing the stock. The wage after completing the stock comes to Rs. 100 and Rs 200 for 1st two types of work and 3rd type of work respectively for those working on cards for 12 pairs of earrings and Rs. 140 and Rs. 280 for 1st two types of work and 3rd type of work respectively for those working on cards for 18 pairs of earrings.

Type of work Wages (in Rs.) Payment for completing 100 cards (in Rs.) Payment for completing 400 cards (in Rs.)
12 pairs 18 pairs 12 pairs 18 pairs 12 pairs 18 pairs
Fixing the ear-pins in the white card .25 .35 .25*100=25 .35*100= 35 .25*400=100 .35*400= 140
Putting glue and sticking beads .25 .35 .25*100=25 .35*10= 35 .25*400=100 .35*400= 140
Fixing ear-pins in the white card and putting glue and sticking beads .50 .70 .50*100=50 .70*100= 70 .50*400=200 .70*400= 280

The average monthly income of these women workers engaged in different types of work processes comes to Rs 400-800 per month if they get work on regular basis. However, these women workers are paid the amount after two months of completing the work. On asking about negotiating for higher wages from the dealer, Nirmala said, “I asked the dealer many times for increasing the wage but he says, ‘If you do not want to work in this amount then stop coming for taking work’”. She further adds, ‘There are more than 200 women workers who collect work from the dealer. The dealer knows that he will get many women to do the ear-ring assembling work without asking for more money”.

Meager wages and ample pain

All the three women workers shared the problems they face because of the nature of work, which requires long hours of sitting and lots of concentration. Sometimes workers are provided with stones in different sizes to stick on the same card for which they have to remember the sequence. Sarita shared, “Sometimes while working I feel sleepy and I disturb the sequence and it takes me sometime to realize the mistake. I take those stones out and stick them at proper place”. Nirmala showed us the cut marks on her fingers from inserting the ear-pins in the holes of white cards. Nirmala said, “This has become routine now. I am used to it”.  Seeta shared about her headache from the long hours of work. All the three women shared about the problems of back-ache and neck-ache because they work while sitting on the floor with their heads bent.

There is a similarity in the reasons given my three women for choosing to work from home. They all are engaged as home workers because they want to utilize the time after completing their household chores (which never ends for women) and earn some amount of money so that they can spend that without being responsible to respond to any one (their husband’s). They realise that the amount they get after doing the tedious work is meager but they cannot ask for higher wages because they know that there are other women who are ready to work for the wage. These women are so engrossed in playing their domestic roles and the role of home workers that they do not get to interact with fellow home workers so they never asked for increasing the wages in a group. They know that no one wants to lose work by asking for more money. That’s the reason over a period of time they have developed this feeling, “Jaane do khaali baithne se accha kuch to aa raha hai” (let it be, it is better to earn something then to sit ideal).

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Live and work with dignity, everywhere!

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Live and work with dignity, everywhere!

Migrantscape

Dear Readers,

Thank you for the tremendous response on our inaugural newsletter – Migrantscape. As promised, we shall keep coming back every six months to update you on what is new, the big little changes on the ground and what keeps us going. Hope you enjoy reading this second edition too!

Wish you all a happy Indian Independence day. May the journey to become a better society continue! 

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We are Poor but so many

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Adivasi women assert their rights

Armed with the resolve to stake a claim on their public entitlements, more than 1,500 women workers marched their way into the District Collector‘s office in Udaipur and staged a peaceful protest to demand pensions, scholarships and maternity benefits from the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board. In response to the strong collective voice, the Collector promised to take swift action. Read our colleague Drishti Agarwal‘s report in The Wire on this incredible feat of strength!

AMC sets up a mobile toilet for migrant workers 

Members of the Bandhkam Vikas Mazdoor Sangh, a construction workers’ collective inAhmedabad 2 Ahmedabad, mobilized in great numbers to submit a memorandum to the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC). They demanded drinking water, sanitation, and public health facilities in their open living spaces. Soon after, mobile toilets were installed in Vasna, a tribal migrant neighbourhood.

Read more on our initiatives in Ahmedabad that are transforming the lives of migrant workers.

“The mobile toilet is not only safe for us, but it also helps us keep our children safe when they use the toilet in the wee hours in our absence”, says Savitaben, a migrant construction worker from Dahod who lives in Vasna with her husband and two children.

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Do you Know?                                                                                                                                                                          A movie released in 1978, starring Farooq Sheikh and Smita Patil portrays the life and travails of taxi drivers in Mumbai, most of whom are migrants from UP.  Do you know the name of the movie? (Scroll down to the bottom of the newsletter for the answer)

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Surat workerMigrantspeak!

Over the past forty years, nearly a million residents of Odisha’s Ganjam District have migrated to Surat’s powerloom industry. In an industry that still pays labour anywhere between Re 1 to Rs 1.25 for weaving per metre, workers without fingers and toes are not a rare sight. Nearly everyone has a story to narrate on a ‘major’ accident, a death that they have personally experienced, witnessed or heard about.

During one such conversation, a powerloom worker said: “Surat is able to treat us this way only because the situation back in Ganjam is as bad. Back home, we can barely make ends meet. Even the owners know that no accident or injury would be as bad.”

Rishikesh Rout, 38, a powerloom worker, lost three fingers in an accident in June 2017. He currently works as a security guard.

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Building safer, healthier workplaces

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“A large majority of workers report being very irritable and unable to sleep well at nights, both well documented effects of loud noise exposure, said Dr. Ramani Atkuri, an experienced medical practitioner who led this assessment.

Power loom workers suffer significant hearing loss- Results from our new study in Surat 

Nearly 95% power loom workers employed in Surat suffer from varying degrees of hearing loss. The workers also show signs of hypertension (50%) and obesity (48%). These staggering figures were revealed in a medical assessment conducted by Aajeevika Bureau in January 2018.  Workers here clock -in about 12 hours daily for long number of years which results in severe stress and health disorders.

In response to these findings, the Pravasi Shramik Suraksha Manch, our power loom workers’ collective in the city has initiated the distribution of earmuffs to its member workers.

Read our colleague Reetika Revathy Subramanian’s article in People’s Archive of Rural India on the occupational hazards faced by workers in the textile capital of the country.

Preventing Silicosis among temple-makers

Stone Curver Looking (1)Studies done by Aajeevika and Kotda Aadivasi Sansthan reveal that 4 out of 10 stone carving workers in Pindwara are susceptible to Silicosis. The crude death rate of working males is 18 against the state average of 4.5. Backed by the power of such evidence, the Rajasthan Labour Department and Aajeevika have jointly convened an official Working Group to effect policy changes and explore effective solutions. Comprising doctors, occupational health specialists, employers and an eminent group of engineers, the group aims to address the preventive aspects of this disease. We have also initiated innovation on dust- control technologies in partnership with Mr. Dunu Roy of Hazard Centre and the Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas of IIT- Bombay.

Alternate employment for stone carvers

Movaram was in school when his father, who was employed in a stone carving unit in MovaramPindwara passed away due to silicosis. Forced to shoulder the responsibilities of his 6-member family, Movaram had to drop out of school and go back into stone carving as that was the only option available locally. However, having witnessed his father’s worsening health and eventual death, Movaram had resolved to find an alternate option. He joined the skill training programme in bike repairing offered by Aajeevika. After 2 years of gaining experience, he started his own repair shop. Movaram is earning about Rs.15000 per month and is able to send two of his brothers to school and provide for a decent living to his family. He recently bought a new motor bike for himself and has also built a house with his new income “Agar hum sthithiyan badalna chahte hai, tho badal sakte hai, bas thoda samay lagta hai” – if we want to change our circumstances we always can, it just takes a little time – says a proud Movaram.

Building a dignified workspace for those who build our homes

Nebula1Our Ahmedabad centre entered into a new partnership with Nebula, a leading construction company to set up a primary health clinic at their project site in Changodar. Early child care, reproductive health and basic hygiene are our major thrust areas. Hinged on a collaborative model with the employer as an equal stakeholder, we are hopeful that this partnership will break new ground in ensuring the well-being of the workforce.

Find out more about the Nebula initiative in which Aajeevika is proud to be a partner!

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Women, work and migration

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Bringing security and dignity to women migrants

Our nascent work in Banswara, a district in southern Rajasthan located at the cusp of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh- has revealed that abuse and violence are a pervasive feature of the migration journeys undertaken by women workers from the region. During transit, at workplaces, in living spaces in cities, women suffer harrowing experiences of bondage and harassment as they work hard to secure a stable livelihood for their families. Made possible by a new grant from the Human Capability Foundation, we are launching a comprehensive programme aimed at leading women from these geographies towards a more safe and dignified migration experience.

Gender at the centre

In keeping with our new year resolution, we dedicated the first half of the year to IMG_4576bringing together our work with women both across villages and cities through new research, team reflection and training and sense-making workshops. With a greater understanding of women’s work and its centrality to sustaining migrant livelihoods we look forward to working closely with them and unravel the migration, women and work relationship. We will be organizing a consultation on the subject in October and will write to you soon with invites.

Here is a peek into our exploration of home-based work among migrant women in Mumbai by our colleague Nisha Bharati

 

 

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Building a collective voice to fight distress

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Road to Freedom

IMG_4574Our Legal Aid and Advocacy (LEAD) unit has always been at the forefront of fighting for the rights of workers in distress. This was proved yet again in May this year, when a complex case of child trafficking and bondage across state boundaries was registered at our Gogunda centre. Two child workers were trapped in a hotel in Rajkot. Forced to work for over 16 hours daily, and denied the compensation they were promised, they were also subjected to abuse and death threats when they tried to leave. The case was soon referred to our Ahmedabad centre, who contacted the District Collector in Rajkot. He promptly organized rescue efforts, freed the children and ensured that the children were paid minimum wages. Criminal charges are now being pursued against the contractor, while we continue to work with the families in rehabilitating their children.

Media advocacy triggers swift government support to a vulnerable family

Aajeevika Bureau’s Pratham Parivar initiative of supporting ultra- vulnerable families in Pratham parivarrural areas, achieved a rare feat when they highlighted Rama’s story in the local media. A poor migrant worker, whose all three children are speech and hearing impaired, Rama was supporting his family by doing wage labour in Ahmedabad. But when he fell sick, his family had no other choice but to send their disabled son to the city to earn whatever little he could. Fortunately, the report created ripples within the local administration, which responded swiftly and sanctioned fast-track linkages to critical social security schemes for this family- housing, ration, pension and more. Here is hoping that Rama’s family is able to tide through this crisis with dignity.

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Listen. Engage. Ideate. Create.

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ILO

Culmination of policy round-tables in partnership with ILO

Our two-year policy partnership with the Work in Freedom programme of the International Labour Organization concluded recently with a state-level dialogue, organized together with the Department of Labour and Employment, Govt. of Rajasthan. Spanning major source and destination states, our endeavor was to bring together various stakeholders from the government, industry and worker unions in a dialogue to improve security and stability for migrant communities, both, in labour markets as well as in their rural homes. A notable highlight was our successive rounds of engagement with the Labour department of Kerala, a prominent receiving state which has now launched a series of welfare measures for migrants, including Worker Facilitation Centres, help desks at transit points and a dedicated health insurance policy.

An insightful dialogue with industry

Industry1In partnership with IIM- Ahmedabad, we recently made an important foray into initiating engagement with migrant-sensitive industries. About 20 senior industry leaders, spanning sectors such as construction, manufacturing and automobiles came together from across the country to engage in a dialogue that was centered on the conditions of informal work at the bottom-end of the supply chains. We sought ideas for enhancing business responsibility in ensuring security and dignity of workers and received many insights into the incentives and compulsions faced by top tiers of the industry. We are building these conversations into our industry engagement strategy, and are excited about the multiple possibilities!

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Our latest journal publication 

“Super-exploitation of Adivasi Migrant Workers: The Political Economy of Migration from Southern Rajasthan to Gujarat”, a peer-reviewed article co-authored by our colleagues Priyanka Jain and Amrita Sharma was recently published in the prestigious International Sage Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics”. Drawing from Aajeevika Bureau’s decade- long experience of working on labour migration in the western Indian corridor, the article establishes that Gujarat’s heady growth is heavily dependent on the extraction of the neighbouring Adivasi communities in southern Rajasthan. Read the full article here 

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Multiplying impact through power-packed partnerships

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Shram Sarathi

Shram Sarathi, our partner organization that works to provide targeted financial Shriram CGAP eventservices to migrant communities were one of the proud winners of the CGAP customer centricity challenge, indeed a great recognition for their innovative work! They also recently entered into exciting new partnerships- a partnership with Pay Nearby Solutions now enables them to offer remittance, cash-in and cash-out services for migrants; while Dvara solutions is helping them upgrade internal technology systems to achieve greater scale.

Read a blog post on Shram Sarathi‘s work here and a video featuring their senior management here.

Basic Healthcare Services

BHS with the Academy of Family Physicians of India (AFPI) co-hosted the National AMRITConsultation on strengthening primary healthcare in rural India, nested within the World Rural Health Conference ’18. Experiences of rural primary healthcare from India and four other countries (Brazil, Australia, Nepal and Canada) were presented, and important lessons were sieved out by leading healthcare experts.Experiences of the AMRIT model and of the public private partnership in managing a Primary Health Centre at Nithauwa were shared at the Conference that received appreciation from public health experts and medical professionals from different countries.

Safe in India

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Safe in India, our partner working to further the mandate of occupational safety among workers in the automotive sector, had a very fruitful meeting recently with the ESIC national management and the Union Labour Minister to advocate for better state action on worker safety. This initiative continues their high-impact journey, already having helped more than 1,250 workers with ESIC benefits, enabling them to access more than Rs. 4 crores in compensation. Learn more about their story here 

Two new colleagues- Chitra Khanna and Sandeep Singh recently joined their senior management team. We are excited to welcome them on board!

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Answer to the quiz

The name of the movie is Gaman. It was directed by Muzaffar Ali and had haunting songs such as seene mein jalan, aankhon mein toofan sa kyon hai, is sheher mein har shaksh pareshan sa kyon hai…

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Towards Freedom…

By Rupal Kulkarni, CEO of Shram Sarathi, a partner of Aajeevika Bureau.

Shram Sarathi is a pioneering financial services institution working on financial inclusion of seasonal labour migrants and their families. For more information, please visit their website: www.shramsarathi.org and follow them on Twitter: @Shram_Sarathi

nojaram

Nojaram felt trapped. A worker in his group had just been beaten up by the contractor for seeking a raise. He was going to do the same that morning, but wasn’t so sure anymore. Nojaram was a migrant from Rajasthan, working as a contractual worker on cooking assignments in Bhuj, Gujarat. Over three years ago, when his father-in-law fell extremely ill, he availed an advance of 15,000 rupees from his contractor. He was very grateful to his contractor because he received the money no-questions-asked and at zero interest. For two years however, he paid a heavy price for the advance…. he paid for it with his freedom. The contractor held him bonded at a wage of 6,000 rupees per month with no increments for over two years. There was a constant threat of physical abuse and when one of the workers’ was beaten up, Nojaram was scared to demand his freedom. No one in the village could lend him or his wife the money and the contractor insisted on a lumpsum repayment, knowing fully well that Nojaram was incapable of doing that.

Not too far away from where Nojaram lives, Mangilal Gameti, another migrant from Gogunda block had a similar story to share. Mangilal worked as a head loader migrating from Gogunda to Unjha, Gujarat earning 400-600 Rs. a day. In early 2017, he borrowed 4,800 rupees from a local moneylender to make urgent repairs to his house which was on the verge of collapsing. He was certain he would be able to pay back the amount within two months, however a sudden illness was the first in a series of unfortunate events. He was unable to work for several months while he recuperated. Since he was unable to pay back the amount in time, the money lender grabbed Mangilal’s bank passbook and Aadhaar card (the only documents in Mangilal’s possession) and refused to return the documents unless Mangilal agreed to work off his debt with unpaid labour. For several months, Mangilal was unable to migrate to Unjha and was forced to suffer the indignity of unpaid work for the moneylender.

These stories are not surprising. Finance has been used a tool to wield control and enslave people for centuries. In its contemporary forms, it is just as brutal, just as inhuman. In informal labour markets in India, withholding wages, keeping wages stagnant for years and denying access to dignified finance are nothing but modern slavery with a twist. These are just as dehumanizing and exploitative as conditions of physical bondage and abuse. However when narratives of financial exclusion are delinked from this context of informality and implicit control, we only make it more convenient for such forms of modern slavery to exist and perpetuate.

Calling it ‘slavery’ is important. Stories like that of Nojaram and Mangilal should shock us, startle us … but somehow they don’t. When I share their ordeals, people often tell me that Nojaram and Mangilal should have known better than to enter into financial arrangements with their contractors or money lenders. But the reality is that their choices are never really theirs. Abject poverty and oppression over generations, social distrust and devaluation of human labour creates a system where choices are not ‘free’. “Agency is not always clearly defined; there is a difference in the choices we make when we are in bondage and those we make when we are free” – a quote I saw on the walls of the slave lodge museum in South Africa that is so pertinent here. In a society that chooses to function only through the enslavement of others, one wonders if Nojaram and Mangilal would have different stories to tell if their choices were truly their own.* And this independence day, I would ruminate on my role as a financial service provider in enabling such choice and upholding freedom.

Foot notes

* Nojaram and Mangilal are both clients of Shram Sarathi. Nojaram was able to repay his contractor with a loan availed from Shram Sarathi. He now works with another contractor for a wage of Rs. 10,000 per month. Mangilal too repaid his loan to the moneylender, retrieved his documents and now migrates to Unjha once again.

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दुदाराम….क्या दिया पिता जी ने

by Dhanraj Jat, Pindwara

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Dudaram’s family

ये उन दिनों कि बात है जब श्रमिक सहायता एवं सन्दर्भ केन्द्र पिण्डवाड़ा द्वारा पत्थर घडाई कार्य करने वाले श्रमिकों की लगातार स्वास्थ्य जांच करवाई जा रही थी। इस भाग दौड़ वाले काम से थोड़ा सा समय निकालकर के मैं अजारी ग्राम पंचायत के सारणी फली गांव में श्रमिक मित्र से मिलने पंहुचा। श्रमिक मित्र की दुकान पर थोडी देर बेठा] चाय पी ओर फिर उसके साथ गांव में टहलते हुऐ, एक घर पंहुचा तो मैने देखा की तीन छोटे-छोटे बच्चें लगभग आधी गेंहु की सुखी रोट जिस पर लाल मिर्च ओर पानी डालकर के बडे ही चाव से खा रहे थे। उनके पास ही एक 19 वर्ष का दुबला-पतला सा नौजवान जो कि जोर-जोर से सांस ले रहा था। वह मुझे देखकर के जैसे-तेसे टुटी खाट पर बैठ गया एवं धीमी से आवाज में पुछा आप कौन  मैने अपना परिचय दिया और फिर हमारी बातचीत शुरु हुई।

उस दुबले-पतले नौजवान ने जोर-जोर से सांस लेते हुऐ अपना नाम दुदाराम गरासिया बताया। दुदाराम ने बताया कि मेरे दादा श्री परथाराम के दो पुत्र एवं एक पुत्री थी। बडे पुत्र का नाम मानाराम एवं छोट पुत्र का नाम सोमाराम था। परथाराम के पास 6 बीघा जमीन थी। वह खेती करता एवं अपने परिवार का लालन-पालन करता। प्रथाराम के बडे बेटे मानाराम का विवाह होने पर वह भी खेती बाडी करने लगा ओर पिता का परिवार का खर्च चलाने मे हाथ बटाने लग गया। कुछ समय बाद सोमाराम का विवाह भी यहा की स्थानीय गरासिया समाज के रीती&रिवाज के अनुसार हो गया। जिससे सोमाराम पर भी परिवार चलाने की जिम्मेदारी आ गई।

परन्तु सोमाराम द्वरा अपनी पैतृक 3 बीघा जमीन पर खेती नही करते हुऐ अपने परिवार की आजीविका उपार्जन के लिए पत्थर घडाई का कार्य अजारी ग्राम पंचायत में स्थित पत्थर घडाई कारखाने मे करने लगा । सोमाराम पत्थर घड़ाई का कार्य में थोडे ही समय में इतना निपुण हो गया की उस कारखाने में सबसे अधिक मजदूरी मिलने लग गई। सोमाराम को आज से लगभग 18-20 वर्ष पहले 150-180 रुपये दिन की मजदूरी मिलती थी। सोमाराम ने पत्थर घडाई का कार्य 7-8 साल किया एवं फिर नई मशीन ग्राइन्डर आ गई।

पत्थर घडाई के कार्य में ग्राइन्डर आने से कार्य तेजी से होने लगा। सोमाराम ने भी ग्राइन्डर से काम करना आरम्भ कर दिया एवं 250-300 रुपये कमाने लग गया। इस प्रकार से सोमाराम के परिवर के आय बढ़ने से आस-पास उसके हुनर की काफी चर्चा होने लगी। इस बीच सोमाराम ने अपनी कमाई से हिरोहोण्डा की बाईक खरीद कर के सबको चौका दिया। क्योकि उस समय कुछ आर्थिक रुप से सम्पन्न व्यक्ति ही बाईक का उपयोग करते थे। सोमाराम की चारो ओर वाही&वाही होने लगी। इस सब के बीच सोमाराम के पांच बच्चे भी हो चुके थे।

     आर्थिक दौड़ में दोडते हुऐ सोमाराम द्वारा ओर 4-5 साल ग्राइण्डर से पत्थर घड़ाई का काम किया ओर उसको सांस की थोडी-थोडी समस्या होने लगी। उसने आस&पास के अस्तपताल में अपने स्वास्थ्य की जांच करवाई] परन्तु आराम नही आया। इस पर वह अपने स्वास्थ्य की जांच करवाने के लिए हमीरगढ़ पंहुचा। वहां पर डाक्टर सहाब ने कुछ दवाई दी] जिससे आराम आ गया ओर फिर से सोमाराम काम पर जाने लगा, परन्तु छ: से सात माह बाद में फिर से सांस की बीमारी हुई। इस बार सोमाराम सीधे ही हमीरगढ़ गया] फिर से डॉक्टर ने कुछ जांच की ओर दवाईया दे दी। इस बार सोमाराम को थोड़ अधिक दिन आराम करना पड़ा। इस प्रकार से सोमाराम शुरुवात में श्वास की समस्या के कारण कुछ दिन आरम करता एवं बाकी दिन अपना काम । कुछ समय और निकलने पर सोमाराम की श्वास की बीमारी ओर बढ़ गई। परन्तु इस बार वह अपने ईलाज के लिए पोसीना गया। परन्तु वहां के डॉक्टर ने सोमाराम को टी.बी की बीमारी बता दी ओर लगातार छ: माह का कोर्स लेने के लिए कहा। इस  प्रकार से सोमाराम माह मे आधे दिन काम करता एवं आधे दिन आराम करता एवं हर माह में एक बार पोसीना दवाईया लेने जाता।

क्योकि सोमाराम को टी.बी की बीमारी थी इस कारण से उसकी घरवाली को भी टी.बी हो गई। जिसके कारण दोनो पति&पत्नी को अपना ईलाज पोसीना व पालनपुर से करवाना आरम्भ कर दिया। परन्तु धीरे-धीरे सोमाराम के काम करने के दिन कम होते चले गये एवं दवाईयों का खर्च बढ़ता चला गया। जिसके कारण हालात इतने खराब हो गये की गांव में आई पहली  बाईक को सोमाराम को 40000 रुपये मे बैचना पड़ा। इसके साथ ही माता&पिता के बीमार का खर्च एवं चार छोटे-छोटे भाई-बहनों के पेट भरने की सम्पूर्ण जिम्मेदारी दुदाराम पर आ गई।

आज से लगभग तीन साल पहले दुदाराम द्वरा पत्थर घडाई का कार्य नपती पर आरम्भ किया गया। दुदाराम खुब मेहनत करने लगा ओर अपने माता&पिता के ईलाज का खर्चा एवं छोटे भाई बहन का पेट भरने लगा। परन्तु माता&पिता की बढ़ती बीमारी के खर्च के आगे उसकी कमाई ने भी घुटने टेक दिये। दुदाराम भी परेशान होकर के अपने माता&पिता के ईलाज के 20 बकरियों को 2000 रुपये एवं 1 बीघा जमीन को 50000 रुपये में बेच दिया। परन्तु माता&पिता का ईलाज नही हो सका। दुदाराम की मां का 2015 में स्वर्गवास हो गया एवं उसके एक साल बाद उसके पिता का भी । इस दौरान एक बीघा जमीन दुदाराम को मात्र 35000 रुपये में बैचनी पडी। इस के साथ ही दुदाराम स्वयं ने लगभग 3 साल पत्थर घडाई का कार्य किया होगा] उसको भी वर्तमान में सिलीकोसिस है। दुदाराम की शादी हो चुकी है एवं उसके एक छ: माह का छोटा सा बच्चा है। परन्तु सिलीकोसिस बीमारी से पीडित होने के कारण उसकी घरवाली ने भी उसको छोड दिया है एवं अपने पीहर रह रही है एवं दुदाराम के उपर वर्तमान में 40000-45000 रुपये उदार है।

दुदाराम ने बताया की अभी मेरे पडौसी आये थे, उनके घर मे जो सुबह की रोटी थी वह देकर के गये है। इस कारण से कसनी (उम्र-14)]सुरमाराम (उम्र-10 वर्ष)] बबलू (उम्र-8 वर्ष) गेंहू की सुखी रोटी] लाल मिर्च पाउडर के साथ खा रहे है। खाना बनाने एवं हमारे ध्यान रखने की पुरी जिम्मेदारी कसनी उठा रही है। कभी-कभी मेरी छोटी बहन सुगना की पति आते है] जो की शेष एक बीघा जमीन की पैदावरी का आधा हिस्सा एवं कुछ अनाज राशन की दुकान से आ जाता है। दुदाराम ने कहा की मेरे पिता भी दुसरों के पिता की तरह मुझ एवं मेरे भाई-बहन को अच्छा भविष्य देना चा​हते थे परन्तु पत्थर घडाई के काम के कारण उन्होने मुझ कर्ज] भुखमरी और बीमारी दि है।

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