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

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

Parha jatra, and politics

The parha jatra, a congregation of 5/7/12/21 villages which form a parha, has been celebrated in Oraon and Munda villages since long. But what was traditionally a religious congregation has also become a rallying point and an occasion for political leaders to assert clout. In 1967, Congress MLA Karamchand Bhagat supported and oganized the parha jatra in Bero for the first time. At the time, the police had imposed a curfew after six adivasis of the area were killed in police firing. Bhagat supported the village parhass efforts to organize the jatra to defy the curfew. Since Bhagat first supported … Continue reading Parha jatra, and politics

Caste and the Maoists

On March 29, in one of the worst setbacks the Maoists have suffered in Jharkhand in recent months, cadres of the Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC), a splinter group of the banned CPI (Maoist), killed 10 Maoists after a gun battle that lasted over 10 hours at Lakarmanda village, 17 km from Kunda, where the Maoists had stopped en route to Gaya. The TPC took 25 Maoists hostage for four days in the Sarengdah and Kunda panchayats in Chatra district and released them after sending off photos to the press of the captured Maoists. “We kept the hostages in a village … Continue reading Caste and the Maoists