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!
We are Poor but so many
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 in 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.
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.
Building safer, healthier workplaces
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
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 Pindwara 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
Our 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!
Women, work and migration
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 bringing 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
Building a collective voice to fight distress
Road to Freedom
Our 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 rural 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.
Listen. Engage. Ideate. Create.
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
In 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!
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
Multiplying impact through power-packed partnerships
Shram Sarathi, our partner organization that works to provide targeted financial services 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.
Basic Healthcare Services
BHS with the Academy of Family Physicians of India (AFPI) co-hosted the National Consultation 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
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!
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…