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Statutory Warning

This Blog is meant purely as a personal diary of a rural manager in making. It exists to record information, experiences and opinions about various issues encountered in the line of duty. Any person, institution and organization mentioned here doesn't assume any liability for its contents. This is not a deliberate attempt to defame anyone. And if you have actually read all that is written in the blog and aren't mad at me, then thanks for your time and patience !

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Insight into Development Sector

A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

Once a gentleman gave me with incredible insight in the development sector where NGOs follows a simple rule --- "Piss Less, Spread More". This appeared cynical to some extent and sounds profane first. But people had longer career talking on development than doing it. Shows which is easier ! This conversation caused me to look at life from a whole new perspective in the development sector. NGOs are currently less concerned on quality of work and strive for better communication strategy for social media, donors & another players. Brand image of NGOs is made up on good will and less on actual impact of their work. The unfortunate irony is that all too often, rhetoric and symbolism replace logic and action in the hallowed portals of the NGO conferences.

Let us never forget that not all NGOs have been necessarily formed for altruistic reasons!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Udaan : Flight out of Poverty

There is neither Perfect Market Competition nor Perfect Community Cooperation. The middle path of community owned enterprise competing in the market has always both social capital and market presence. The rise of the creative economy encourages self-interest over collective action in the society, but all is not lost. There is a Value-proposition for setting FPO (Farmer Producer Organization). Udaipur Agro Producer Company Limited, (UAPCL) is one such producer company focused on strengthening the livelihoods of the community. Here is the glimpse through this video -

Thursday, July 16, 2015

SECC data is out.

As per Prof Cornel West, Democracy always raises the fundamental question: What is the role of the most disadvantaged in relation to the public interest? The catch in this valid question lies in the definition of the 'Disadvantage Class/Caste'. Who are they varies from politicians, academics and policy makers. No major program in any field can be effective without a robust information system. The road to social justice for all should be based on solid data for understanding ground realities.

SECC data is out. This census takes caste into account for the first time in any such exercise since 1931. But the government is hiding OBC numbers. The previous government led by the Congress had also decided to conduct a caste-based census, but not to make the data public. The reasons for withholding this data can only be political.  Data on economic indicators, with special enumeration of SCs and STs, is done by the regular census as well. SECC was commissioned because many parties wanted similar numbers for the OBCs to pitch for political mileage. However, it is always tough to digest that SECC was done to mitigate absence of large-scale, credible and empirical data for public policy. But, its a matter of time that numbers will be made public.

There was once huge hue and cry over caste census as being labelled as divisive by upper caste dominated groups. Prof. Kancha Ilaiah had explained this in his article long back: Who’s afraid of caste census? --- "Caste culture is all around us. In the dalit-bahujan discourse, the upper castes are being shown as constituting less than 15 per cent. This could be totally wrong. Even within the lower castes there are several false claims about numbers. Every caste claims that it is numerically the strongest and keeps asking for its “rightful” share. How to tell them that their claims are wrong? When caste has become such an important category of day-to-day reckoning it is important to have proper data at hand to tell communities that they constitute this much and cannot ask for more than their share. It is true that we cannot distribute everything based on caste. But caste census is the right basis for statistics such as literacy rate and issues like the proportion of representation. Once we cite the Census data there cannot be any authentic opposition to that evidence."

There is unquestionable value in a general policy of reservation as merit can't be only criteria for granting subsidy and reservations. Social Justice and economic barriers needs to be fulfilled also for deciding such national/state level policies. Despite of deep affiliation for caste groups, public is ready and eager to advance toward a more transparent and accountable society. And, making SECC data publicly available would improve transparency in the political debates if not direct action leading to better governance.

The bigger question isn't the availability of the data but the lack of will power to implement the policy. There is all required data available for STs in census yet there is siphoning of funds allocated to SC/STs. ( Systemic denial and diversion of budgetary allocations) . Many departments have failed miserably in allocating funds and even spending that minor fund for the TSP as per the proportion of tribal population of the state. The manipulation made by the bureaucracy and political leaders in taking decision of diversion of the TSP fund showed huge contrast between public policy and data based evidence.  Also, there is a deafening silence on Gender Budgeting (GB) in the corridors of the power.  So,  what we have a country where no-one pays heed to independent minds seeking for evidence base policy in social sector. In such a political system, one has to learn to manipulate rather than simply putting the case.

A pure functioning meritocracy would produce a society with growing inequality, but that inequality would come along with a correlated increase in social mobility. Is this really happening across caste and religion ? We can only guess as there is not yet sufficient data  for planning on caste based issues. SECC data would even regenerate healthy debate between two groups proposing - either 'caste-blind &class-based'  or 'caste & class based' type of affirmative action.   The best way to improve quality of a debate is through providing individual with the data to make informed choices in a democratic country.  SECC data is crucial for making sound evidence-based plans,it helps us understand what is merit and social justice  so that appropriate policy can be made for the Disadvantaged class/caste. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Migration Series -3

Let me move ahead in the last part of Migrant Series. (1 and 2) .Whenever someone comes with an idea on research on the issue of migration and informal sector, there is complete lack of valid data on the nature and terms of employment, particularly in the informal sector. This is directly linked with the state’s unwillingness or inability to use resources for counting the large number of informal sector workers including child workers, bonded labour, migrant workers, home-based workers, domestic workers, and manual scavengers.

A person migrate to a prosperous region due to low employment opportunities at home, low agricultural productivity, deeply entrenched feudalism, and negative industrial growth of the region. Due to irregular cash flow nature of agriculture, a household has no other option but to seek credit at exorbitant interest rates from the local money lender during an emergency situation. The household requires huge money for repayment that isn't much available in returns from the agriculture. That is one of the reasons of the migration in any part of the India. This migration is facilitated by contractors and relatives. They are even willing to accept any distress wages that are offered as long as they have access to employment. In the dire need, they neglect the problems of not having an identity cards, lack of awareness about potential employers or favourable working conditions. The share of agricultural households among rural households varied from 27 per cent in Kerala to 78 per cent in Rajasthan. And, an accurate mapping of agricultural household and migrants can show the true picture of migration in India.

According to a recent census report, three out of five people in Indian cities live in slums; the increasing migration will make that four out of five within the decade. Covering over 4,000 towns, the report reveals a figure of 65 million living in unauthorised squalor. "Unrecognised" slums have no access to safe drinking water, electricity and sanitation. Chakarpur village in Gurgaon is a hub of migrants from Bangladesh and West bengal. Such migrants always have a sense of vulnerability and social isolation that is exacerbated by their ignorance, illiteracy and the alien environment. Urban middle class populations who generally hold negative views on migrants. Local Rajasthani and Punjabi is considered as “indigenous and authentic” whereas the migrant from Bihar is a sinister criminal in New Delhi. Low skilled workers are utilized in construction sector, domestic servants, chauffeurs and gardeners while women and child are working as maids, rag pickers, and scavengers with low and irregular income. These slum residents provide cheap labour as their average wages are just 40-70% of the local labour. There is a CARE report on such pathetic living conditions.

Mosse et al (2005) highlight the fact that most formal channels for protection of seasonal migrant workers such as the Minimum Wages Act (1948), the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (sic) Act (1979) and the Construction Workers Act (1996) among many others have demonstrated a bias towards formal sector workers and hence failed to deliver. As a result most informal sector migrant workers rely on contractors and agents to cope with socio-economic risks. Most of these insurance products sold by agents (usually friends and acquaintances of the migrant) have limited knowledge of the product themselves. The reliability of such agents is always in doubt and rarely case is heard about claim settlements through employer. Exhaustive working hours, poor nutrition and occupational hazards (injuries occurring at the workplace) always push migrants back to the source. Early return is a complex and multi-layered issue that often destabilizes the social, economic and psychological well-being of a migrant.

Bonded labour is rampant in brick kilns, stone quarries, beedi manufacturing, carpet weaving and construction, and child bonded labour in the silk industry. Bondage has been rampant across the state, but the government denies the fact. While thousands of bonded labourers have over the years been released, only very few of them were issued release certificate by the authorities concerned. The bigger question is “whether the state is willing to abolish the bonded labour system?” Since no release certificates are issued to those released and no legal case filed against those who keep bonded labourers, hence there is no persecution.

In this last part of the series, we will give focus on Distress Migration and Human Trafficking. It must be kept in mind that trafficking is different from migration. There are important fundamental differences between migration and trafficking. Trafficking of women and children is one of the gravest organized crimes and violations of human rights done either through deception, coercion or debt bondage situation. Human trafficking is also up in India for the similar reasons -- a lack of economic opportunities, a corrupt state, and the rise of terrifying social pathologies. There were hundreds of thousands of migrants, nearly all male, who did not have wives or girlfriends with them, and having an expendable income. This made a much more fertile environment for prostitution, and hence human trafficking in India. There are various pull factors for destination are Jobs, promise of marriage and a better life, demand for young girls and finally access to sex trade.

Immigration has become symbolic of the disruption of communities, the undermining of identities and the fraying of the family values. It is an outright violation of the right to mobility when government stop people from emigrating for better life. But it is a quite impossible task and also not desirable to stop people from migrating voluntarily. However, there are strong voices that objects to migration. Immigration is clearly one of the most fiercely debated and toxic issues of today. Even in policy circles, there is a disconnected emphasis on remittances alone and less about social factors. In the short term migration may result in the loss of local financial and human capital, but it can also be beneficial and contribute to the long-term development of rural areas. Remittances generate significant indirect benefits to the community at large.

Do migrants really have a choice between two such different worlds, between aspiration and deprivation, power and powerlessness? There are no words for me to write on anger, violence and frustration of the migrant worker. The topic of gender, trafficking and migration has been around for a while, but substantive work on this topic that go beyond the anecdotal is yet hard to find. Those who are interested in basic study can look upto : An overview of migration in India, its impacts and key issue.


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