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

Hunger and deep distress in Delhi in lockdown

In the first month of lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the Delhi government enhanced food rations and distributed cooked food in night shelters and schools. But it wasn’t nearly enough. Full report here. Continue reading Hunger and deep distress in Delhi in lockdown

‘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

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

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

How to cheat workers of minimum wages

Delhi Metro workers losing crores in wages; allotted fake Provident Fund accounts by contractors Workers hired through multiple contractors by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) are denied their minimum wages by employers who have allotted fake Provident Fund and health insurance accounts to siphon off their money. Questioned about this, officials said that while they were aware of the workers’ complaints, they had not yet blacklisted any company, despite the fact that the Delhi Metro paid a share of the workers’ PF, which runs into crores, as part of contractors’ bills. The DMRC employs over 4,900 workers through more … Continue reading How to cheat workers of minimum wages