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Bhilwara: In India’s first district to go on lockdown, workers battle hunger and uncertainty

Bhilwara, a textiles and sandstone mining hub, in India’s west was one of the first districts to be locked down following fears of community transmission. This is a report with phone interviews with brick workers, textile factory workers, miners and farm workers. Continue reading Bhilwara: In India’s first district to go on lockdown, workers battle hunger and uncertainty

In Kashmir, doctors are unreachable, patients anxious

It has been months since the Indian government shut down the internet and stopped mobiles phones in Kashmir. While officials cite statistics to maintain all is well in Kashmir, doctors, hospital staff, attendants of those in hospitals in Srinagar, Bandipora, Shopian, Pulwama say accessing health care has become harder. Critically ill patients cannot get timely care or emergency services. A podcast from Srinagar by Menaka Rao and me on Suno India here. Continue reading In Kashmir, doctors are unreachable, patients anxious

Covid-19 relief: When India doesn’t count the poor as workers

The labour ministry’s focus is on registered construction workers and provident fund subscribers, excluding a vast majority of the working poor. On March 29, four days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that all establishments and public transport would be shut down to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Rashmi Ahirwar and her husband, Rakesh, picked up their bags and left. They planned to walk 570 km to their village in Tikamgarh, Madhya Pradesh, to survive the lockdown. But the Ahirwars were turned back by the Delhi police. They had to walk back to the construction site in Delhi University’s South … Continue reading Covid-19 relief: When India doesn’t count the poor as workers

‘I stitched bags for big brands, but barely earned enough to eat’

On December 8, a fire started at dawn at a factory in Delhi, it engulfed over a hundred workers who slept inside the factory. Forty three workers, including children, asphyxiated to death, while 60 were seriously injured in the most devastating fire in Delhi in a decade. A five-storey residential building housed a factory which government officials said lacked a manufacturing permit as well as fire safety certification. It was, in other words, one of the thousands of illegal factories operating in Delhi. I had visited Anaj Mandi in December and this is how a middle class resident had explained … Continue reading ‘I stitched bags for big brands, but barely earned enough to eat’

Eleventh night under the sky, in Honda

Since November 5, Honda workers have occupied / de-occupied the factory. National newspapers have reported how it is a helpless situation for Honda which is facing economic stress or recession. Indian Express reported how the company had slowed down, less production, and these workers were contract workers doing irregular/unskilled/ ancillary work, loading or moving trolleys, packing etc. The workers have a different experience / lived experience / perspective on it. Of 2500 contract “casual” workers, 1500 are inside the plant, the rest are at the gate. Most have worked 10-12 years now at the same factory. For over a decade … Continue reading Eleventh night under the sky, in Honda

Justice delayed, justice denied

The government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party stripped the Kashmir region of its relative constitutional autonomy on August 5, 2019. Police have detained more than 3,000 people and arrested over 300. Those arrested include senior lawyers, making people’s legal fights difficult. Forty days later, courts are vacant, post offices still shut in Kashmir. Habeas corpus petition are piling up but hearings are being postponed and court orders have dwindled. Among the first individuals the government arrested was the High Court Bar Association of Kashmir president Mian Abdul Qayoom who is now being held in a prison in Agra in … Continue reading Justice delayed, justice denied

Particularly vulnerable Adivasi speak of despair, hunger at tech “disruption” of social schemes

Jirua Parhaian and Dhaneshwar Parhaiya sat in front of the large crowd that had gathered to take stock of the effectiveness of public schemes in Jharkhand’s Manika block, under which which their village falls. They belong to the Parhaiya Adivasi community, which is classified as a “particularly vulnerable tribal group”. The elderly couple listened quietly while government officials acknowledged the problems that have prevented Parhaiya Adivasis from availing of government schemes meant for them. Both were frail and walked with difficulty. But they had traveled to Manika, the block centre, 15 km from their village Uchvabal, to attend the meeting … Continue reading Particularly vulnerable Adivasi speak of despair, hunger at tech “disruption” of social schemes

A story from Delhi’s industrial areas

Workers say they are unsure if this political system works for them, and no governments are directly able to respond to their issues. At 9 in the morning on Tuesday, instead of starting work at the assembly line, men stood in huddles outside several factories in Delhi’s Okhla industrial area. It was the first day of a two-day general strike called by 10 central trade unions, the largest industrial action planned just months before the Lok Sabha elections. In the last such action in September 2016, trade unions claimed 15 crore workers had taken part, including in industrial areas in … Continue reading A story from Delhi’s industrial areas

Radha Devi: Managing maladies in Bhuiantola

A path winding through paddy fields led to Bhuiantola, a hamlet where Bhuian Dalit families lived, on the outskirts of Tarwadih village in Jharkhand’s Latehar district. That month, eight individuals in Tarwadih were on treatment for tuberculosis(TB), a serious bacterial infection that most commonly affects the lungs. Four of them lived in Bhuiantola. The previous night, Radha Devi, the village sahiya or frontline health worker, an Accredited Social Health Activist(ASHA) had finished helping a woman delivery a baby in the hamlet. Now, walking down the paved path, she called out to Ramavtar Ram who was working in the fields. “Nine … Continue reading Radha Devi: Managing maladies in Bhuiantola

Reporting series on tuberculosis among workers

India has an enormous tuberculosis crisis, but the government still does not have an accurate estimate even of how many Indians suffer from the disease. A million cases are still not notified every year, and people remain undiagnosed, or inadequately diagnosed and struggle for accessing full treatment. While TB can be cured by a drug regimen of six months, the emergence and increase in antibiotics resistant TB is a concern. These stories trace the effects of economic and health policies in on workers with TB and their experiences with drug resistant TB: Stone-crushing workers in Ajmer suffer as the government’s … Continue reading Reporting series on tuberculosis among workers

In Jharkhand, more militarization following tribal farmers’ pathalgadi assertion

Khunti lies near the birthplace of Birsa Munda. Tribal farmers organised ceremonies in which they carved the constitutional provisions on tribal autonomy on large rocks, and erected these at the entrance to the hamlets.
But the assertion by the Munda farmers that the government follow the laws and the constitution’s special provisions granting self governance in predominantly tribal areas such as Khunti has drawn the ire of the state. Continue reading In Jharkhand, more militarization following tribal farmers’ pathalgadi assertion

Day four: At Saket labour court

On Thursday, by 11 am, Mannu was at Pushp Bhawan gate. It was the second conciliation hearing of his case. He climbed a floor up the staircase, and joined the queue in front of the Assistant Labour Commissioner office. More people came up slowly, cutting through the queue to trace where their names and turns figured on the cause list. Mannu’s case against Ikai, a textile designer store where he had worked for four years, was eighth that day in a list of 51. Fashion, media studies, hotels, several other establishments were on the lists. It was getting crowded but … Continue reading Day four: At Saket labour court

A miner recounts

Every year, the mines slows down and stops at the onset of monsoon, and then resume after harvest. Right now, the stone pits are still full of green water from the rains.The work is on pause for everyone to return from home after Diwali. Many young men, a few women whose homes are nearby, who did not leave, sit around tea shops, and in the common spaces waiting. When they speak, they are not in the mood of a break or rest, as they wait for the full mine operation to start in another fifteen days. Over and over, they … Continue reading A miner recounts

Oldest mountain

Bijolia Khurd khaan. Sandstone quarries in Bhilwara, Rajasthan. Bijolia in Bhilwara and Dhabi in Boondi have some of the oldest and largest stone quarries on the Aravalli, India’s oldest mountain ranges, now eroded to stubs. Workers who live by the quarries and mines work with their hands, using chisels and hammers to cut stone into slabs, which contractors measure at the end of the work day. They earn Rs 3 for each foot of stone they cut, in eight hours, today, Subhash Mehr, Rajesh Yadav, Keshu Ram Jogi cut 70-80 feet stone at Sukhpura khaan. Continue reading Oldest mountain