Durgesh runs a mobile shop in Padavali khurd, a Panchyat in Gogunda block of Udaipur. A visit to his shop is good enough to get an idea that he has a flourishing business. He treats his customers well – most of who are villagers, struggling to make a good choice of a mobile, not knowing which SIM card to pick or frustrated with their old sets, which refuse to function. Durgesh listens to them with patience, deftly managing his merchandise, meanwhile he also tries to answer my questions and smile at my camera. In addition to running a mobile shop, Durgesh works as a Shramik Mitra for Aajeevika Bureau, helping us expand our outreach and deliver services to the migrant community.
The entrance of his shop carries a large poster of Labor Line – Aajeevika’s phone based helpline for workers. The inside of the shop also carries several posters of our skill training work, collectivization and there is a separate rack dedicated to the survey formats of Aajeevika. As a Shramik Mitra, Durgesh helps us carry out a range of activities including worker registrations, migration surveys, community mobilization for special events etc. I ask him what does he get out of this – he smiles and tells me – “Yeh Achha kaam hai” – its good work, he adds on – “I get to help people from my community and it makes me feel good. Plus, it doesn’t take much effort for me to introduce these things to people, who anyway come to my shop. I interact with more people and get recognition and respect. He enthusiastically shows me his Shramik Mitra ID issued to him by Aajeevika….
“Shramik mitras” or “friends of workers” enjoy a significant place within Aajeevika’s migration initiative. They help us reach out to a larger group of migrants and deliver our services in a resource-efficient manner. Similar to volunteers, their role becomes more important for a target group difficult to track – the seasonal migrant community as we know is characterized by high mobility and its footloose nature.
Most of the Shramik Mitras are youth from within the community – students, migrants and returnees. They are a solid and steady representative of the migration program living within the community, helping us disseminate key messages on safe migration practice. Shramik Mitras involved in the legal aid service, are also able to provide basic counsel/first aid, helping workers identify the right platforms for dispute redress.
Among the several roles played by them under the migration program, the one that is most powerful is that of an informed, aware worker who is conscious of his rights and also sensitive towards his responsibilities in the labor market. They act as our ambassadors, persuasive examples of responsible labor behavior.
Durgesh is an enterprising young man with big dreams. While talking to me he takes out the picture of his wife from his wallet and shows it to me – he talks of her with great pride – “she is more educated than me…I want her to finish her studies and one day apply for RAS (Rajasthan Administrative Services)”. When I ask him, why didn’t he study further; he says – “someone needed to fend for the family, I am in the driving seat now, after my wife finishes her studies, I will go back to studies and then she can run the family”.
May all your dreams come true and may the likes of you inspire many more like us!
– Amrita Sharma and Rajendra Sharma, Aajeevika Bureau