and PUCL Gujarat, India
of employment daily wage labourers on the verge of starvation
This month, it is
uncertain how many days they will be able to get
wages. But who cares ?
There isnt a
reserve of food in their stomachs and in such a
situation, those elements creating communal tension in the past few
weeks force the common human being to stay indoors and without
Since the past 22 Days, a targeted attack on the minority community
in the name of a revenge for the Godhra massacre has continued
unabated. The homes of thousands of people of minority community have
been razed to the ground, and the government has proven to be
unsuccessful at putting a stop to such events. Sources of livelihood
have been destroyed. All these incidents have happened in the
presence of the police forces and sometimes they have received the
blessings of police as well. This frightening situation is giving
shape to another equally grim situation.
In the past 5 years 10 lakhs people have lost employment in Gujarat.
No new employment has been generated to rectify this. The government,
public and private sector have instead touted the Voluntary
Retirement Scheme (VRS) as answer.
Due to the new economic policy of the government, the situation of
the common person is worsening day by day. Like vegetable vendors,
groups of daily wage labourers move around in areas like Old Padra
Road, Nyay Mandir, Railway station underbridge now they have begun
to overflow to other, newer areas of the city. In Baroda city,
earlier there used to be 3-5 casual labour markets but now these have
now increased to 20. These labour markets are not very different from
the slave markets of the 14th century. The only difference is that
now they are there of their so-called own free will to sell
labour. Today, in order to fill their stomachs, daily wage workers
have to work for more than 10-16 hours. For example 4,000 - 10,000
people have to stand in labour markets for hours each day in Baroda
to get employed. Earlier it was believed that these people are
migrants from Panchmahal or Chota Udepur, but now in such labour
markets one will find new categories of people those who earlier had
secure jobs, people who worked in industries that have now closed
down, or those who have been retrenched in the name of "Voluntary
Retirement Scheme" have now had to join the ranks of daily wage
labourers. Some of these workers are such that they use to get Rs.
2,500 - 3,000/- per month as permanent employees in industries. Now,
in the casual labour market they get Rs.35 - 65/- as daily wages.
Since the size of this casual labour market is increasing, the wages
have shown a downward trend.
The number of rickshaws that are run on rents has also increased. The
number of those who are earning a living in such a manner 50% of them
are workers of closed mills of Gujarat. Amongst the new rickshaw
drivers, there are of course those who are unable to get other jobs,
but also those who have lost their regular jobs or have been
retrenched in the name of voluntary retirement. Those who can afford
to rent out their rickshaws have bought cars themselves, so that
those who drive the rickshaws and those who sit in rickshaws are from
about the same economic strata this has made the economic condition
of rickshaw drivers more precarious. Around 70% of rickshaws are not
able to go on road since last 22 days.
These days one can only get a job for few months and now in very
small number as security guards: for this job, a worker gets Rs.
1,000 - 1,500/- for a 12 hours shift. Labour laws are given a
complete go by in such jobs.
Given such a situation, the communal riots that started after
barbarian attack at Godhra on the Sabramti Express and continue till
today have made the condition of the common human being even more
There are people who under normal circumstances also are not able to
make ends meet with great difficulty and among them 70% are people
who are on the verge of starvation. These people rely on the
informal/unorganised sector for their employment. This section of the
population has been imprisoned in their houses since the past 22 days
and are unable to go out to seek employment. These people are not
those who work in schools, banks or in the organised sector, where if
people do not show up at work due to curfew, they are still able to
get their salaries or wages. These are people who, if they do not go
to work on a particular day, are unable to cook food in the evening.
On the one hand, these people have been pushed on the brink of
starvation and on the other hand, they are being terrorised by the
fear of communal attacks. Not only have the nights become like the
day for them, it is the day which has become as dark as the night.
Children are scared to go to school and their guardians are afraid to
take them there. In so many areas, children are unable to sleep at
night they ask repeatedly, when will all this stop?
We appeal to all those who have become victims of this extremely
serious situation to raise their voice against the violence supported
by the State and Government. There are handful of people, who want to
instigate the violence, are conducting meetings and spreading rumours
and thus poisoning the relations between the two communities. We
appeal to people to boycott such people and resist them if they can.
The common people should realise that the "real created or imagined
differences" between the community should be resolved by dialogue
and not by mob violence which affects their lives and livelihood.
Because of the prevailing circumstances, the condition of the common
person has become worse and the real issues facing them have been
sidelined. For this everyone needs to unite and prepare themselves
for a long battle against communal forces and exploitation.
For SHANTI ABHIYAN
Kirit Bhatt, Rohit
Prajapati, Manzur Saleri, Renu Khanna,
Trupti Shah, Jagdish Shah, Deeptha Achar, Chinu Srinivasan, Johannes
Manjrekar, Raj Kumar Hans, Iftikhar Ahmad
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