Skip to main content

Shift focus from "overprotected" organised sector workers to unorganised labour: Top rights activist

By Our Representative
A well-attended seminar organised by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Ahmedabad, in association with the Wada Na Todo Abhiyan, a national advocacy group campaigning to include social justice issues in political parties' electoral agenda, has reached the conclusion that there is an urgent need to campaign for building a mechanism to ensure that the existing legal provisions of social protection are implemented, and the focus should be on the unorganized sector. “Several laws guaranteeing people’s needs exist, but they are rarely implemented”, CSJ director Gagan Sethi, a human rights activist summed up the main sentiment.
The seminar saw around hundred demands having been compiled to be forwarded to political parties across India for inclusion in their electoral manifestos.Martin Macwan, founder of Navsarjan Trust, and director, Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK), off Sanand, the new industrial hub near Ahmedabad following the Tata Nano plant taking shape there, suggested that the organized sector employees, especially of the government sector, are “too protected”, one reason why they remain indifferent to people's needs. However, nobody is there to look into the unorganised sector workers, whose basic human needs, whether minimum wages, healthcare, housing, or education to children, are never taken care of.
“Recently at DSK, we asked a simple question to the children who come to be trained at the centre: As most of them are in their teens, we asked them what they know of the national Parliament’s functioning. To our utter surprise, they knew nothing about electoral politics, beyond the Gram Panchayat. This is the state of affairs of our education. The teachers, sure of getting salary, do not teach, and the students, as a result, suffer. There is a need to understand why this happens”, he said, adding, “The need of the hour is look into the plight of the unorganized sector.”
“You do not need to go far. You just go to the road behind the Tatas' Nano plant. Once, small villages existed along the road. Now, for nearly 10 kilometre stretch, you don't see any of them. Instead, you can only see migrant workers, half naked, mainly from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, living next to their makeshift dwelling units, with tin roofs. Most of the time they live in the open, without any basic provisions, whether water, sanitation or health. These workers are totally unprotected, yet few care to look into their problems”, Macwan said.
Taking the issue a little further, Priti Oza of Prayas said, “These unorganised workers, since they are all migrants, are not considered beneficiaries of government schemes where they work simply because their permanent place of living is far away. This happens despite the fact that for ten months in a year, they live next to the place where they work. They are not considered beneficiaries of ration card, of electoral ID card, of free medical care, of housing schemes.” She added, “The plight of the unorganised sector needs special attention, as it forms 50 per cent of the population.”
The seminar saw reiteration of the important demand that Baba Ambedkar's statue should be higher than that of Sardar Patel. Raising the issue high for inclusion in electoral manifestos, Macwan -- one of India's important Dalit activists -- said, “We do not believe in having iconic statues. But, unfortunately, those in power do not seem to understand any other language. The decision of Sardar Statue, to be built for Rs 2,500 crore, was taken without caring once about the need to take approval from the Gujarat state legislature. Even the opposition is quiet about it for some strange reason. Hence, we say, since Ambedkar’s stature is even higher, his statue should be higher than the Sardar’s.”
For the first time, a group claiming to represent sexual minorities in Gujarat was provided the NGO platform to up forward its demands. One of the members of the group, Swagat M Shah, said Section 377, which is obsolete, should be abrogated as it is “discriminatory” in nature. Claiming to represent lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LTBG) groups, Shah said, Section 377 doesn’t just considers all LTBGs as criminals but “prohibits oral sex and masturbation” between husband and wife in a room. “The Supreme Court order is discriminatory. It has declared 20 per cent of adult population as criminal”, he said.
The seminar was held following Gujarat’s 20 grassroots community-based organizations (CBOs) working in Songadh, Mandvi, Navsari, Tapi, Ahmedabad city, Surendranagar, Shehra, Devgadh Baria, Daskroi and other places worked out demands for the tribals fighting for control over natural resources, especially land and forests, in the scheduled areas of Gujarat’s eastern tribal belt, and the Dalits seeking an end to untouchability practices across Gujarat. There were also important demands for electoral reforms, such as 50 per cent reservation to women in all electoral bodies, and separate electorate for Dalits and tribals.
Then, there were demands for reservation in the private sector industries for Dalits, tribals and other vulnerable sections in view of expanding wings of the industry, bringing about an end to indiscriminate land acquisition, provision of proper resettlement package to those displaced because of development projects, resurvey of below poverty line (BPL) families in order to include those left out, an end to the contract system of employment, increase in the proportion of budgetary allocation for Dalits and tribals, and a ban on caste-based manual scavenging across Gujarat and India.

Comments

TRENDING

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Mental health: India's 95% patients "deprived" of medical care, treatment gap 70%

By Moin Qazi*
Among the many challenges India faces, the most underappreciated is the ongoing mental health crisis. Mental illness is actually India’s ticking bomb. An estimated 56 million Indians suffer from depression, and 38 million from anxiety disorders. For those who suffer from mental illness, life can seem like a terrible prison from which there is no hope of escape; they are left forlorn and abandoned, stigmatized, shunned and misunderstood.

Modi model? "Refusal" to build Narmada's micro canals, keep Kutch dry; help industry

By Medha Patkar*
This is the latest photograph of the Kutch Branch Canal (KBC) of the Sardar Sarovar, as of April 8! What does it show, expose, and what memories do you recall? Is it dry or dead? Is it a canal or a carcass of the same?

Bill Gates "promoting" GMO, Bt cotton, like cartels that have roots in Hitler's Germany

By Our Representative
World-renowned environmental leader and ecologist Dr Vandana Shiva has expressed concern that Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft Corporation, has joined the bandwagon of “a poison cartel of three" – Monsanto and Bayer, Syngenta and ChemChina, Dow and DuPont – all of whom allegedly have “roots in Hitler’s Germany and finding chemicals to kill people”.

Indian talc products contain "contaminated" asbestos structures, can cause cancer: Study

Counterview Desk
A recent study, using polarizing light microscopy, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), electron diffraction, and X-ray analysis on multiple over-the-counter Indian talc products for the presence of asbestos, has concluded that large quantities of body talc products are likely to pose a public health risk for asbestos-related diseases, especially for the cancers related to asbestos exposure.

Why are you silent on discrimination against Dalit jawans? Macwan questions Modi

By Rajiv Shah
Close on the heels of releasing his book in Gujarati, "Bhed Bharat", which lists 319 cases of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis across the country over the last five years, well-known Gujarat Dalit rights leader Martin Macwan has shot an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, telling him the reasons why he does not want vote for the BJP.

Emergence of a rare Dalit teacher in IIT-Kanpur "disturbed" certain faculty members

By PS Krishnan, IAS (Retd)*
Dr Subrahmanyam Sadrela, a faculty member in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Kanpur since January 1, 2018, and one of the rare Dalit members of the faculty in IIT group of institutions, is facing the threat of revocation of his PhD thesis, and thereby also jeopardizing his job and career.

RTE in remote areas? Govt of India "plans" to close down 2.4 lakh schools

By Srijita Majumder*
The Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, came into effect on April 1, 2010, for the first time made it obligatory on the part of the State to provide free and compulsory education to all children from 6-14 years of age in India. The Act, despite its limitations, had progressive elements like neighbourhood schools, community participation, ban on corporal punishment, no detention, continuous and comprehensive evaluation and it hence it appeared that India was not far from achieving universal elementary education.

Election Commission suffering from worst-ever "credibility crisis": Ex-bureaucrats

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to President Ram Nath Kovind, a group of ex-bureaucrats have lamented ‘weak-kneed’ responses of the Election Commission of India (ECI) in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Citing various violations of the model code of conduct, and pointing towards how ECI has taken little action, the letter asks the President to tell ECI to “conduct itself in a manner where its independence, fairness, impartiality and efficiency are not questioned.”

Investigation shows Narmada downstream "seriously" polluted. Reason: apathy, greed

By Rohit Prajapati, Krishnakant, Swati Desai*
Our investigation regarding quality of water flowing in the Narmada river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD), dated April 6, 2019, between 11.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. reiterates, what is commonly known now, that the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) is planned without considering its impact on the downstream Narmada River stretch of 161 kilometres, its ecology, biodiversity and fishery, and lakhs of people living close to and dependent on the river directly or indirectly. This, in turn, has led to its present disastrous state.