Mohammed Ashraf is short and stubby, with a narrow but muscular chest and small, broad hands balanced on strong, flexible wrists. But Ashraf does not grudge the throw of the dice that has made him a safediwallah with a mazdoor’s body. A small man’s body can do things that a slenderchamak-challo cannot even contemplate.
A small man carries the ground close to him wherever he goes, even as he hangs along the side of a building three storeys high. The memory of the ground that allows him to crawl into crevices, perch on narrow ledges and balance on wobbly parapets. A short man knows the limits of his body, the extent of his reach, the exact position of his centre of balance. Unlike the tall man, he holds no illusions regarding his abilities or his dimensions; he will never overreach, overextend or overbalance.
A Free Man, my first book, should be in stores this July. Read the rest of the excerpt
Guest post by RUCHI GUPTA
Subverting Democracy 
It took 47 days of a protest sit-in in Jaipur to make the State budge. It’s notable that the objective of this protracted protest wasn’t to coerce the government for an extra share of State resources but to hold the government accountable to the Constitution and its own laws. The protest, “mazdoor haq satyagraha” was staged by workers employed under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) to demand enforcement of their constitutional right to earn minimum wage. Even now after some initial encouraging signs, the matter seems to have stalled. Continue reading Democracy and the Politics Around NREGA: Ruchi Gupta
New Delhi: While the Manmohan Singh government’s Left-free second innings is expected to usher in changes to India’s archaic labour laws, the labour ministry is working on a quick-fix solution to help drop the country’s notorious ‘inspector raj’ tag.
If all goes to plan, India Inc would no longer have to deal with labour inspectors turning up at their premises to check compliance with 43 central and myriad state labour legislations. Instead, firms can submit a certificate from a company secretary that validates their compliance with the numerous employment laws.
( The Indian Express, Vikas Dhoot, Posted: Wednesday, Aug 05, 2009 at 0137 hrs IST)
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh led government’s ‘left free second innings’ seems to be taking the battle against ‘archaic labour laws’ full steam ahead. The outgoing Union Labour Secretary, Ms Sudha Pillai, some time back shared with the media about the draft which is being prepared in the labour ministry to this effect.
The proposal, which would be shortly submitted in the form of a cabinet note, seeks to ‘permit company secretaries to file compliance reports for labour laws, just like they give compliance reports for other laws.’ As of now the role of the company secretary is limited to certifying the said firm’s compliance with various statues, which includes the companies act, 1956 and also the listing agreement with stock exchanges and the issue of compliance with labour laws is handled by the labour inspectors.
Continue reading Company Secretary to Replace Inspector
The right to work involves just and fair condition of employment, and also, protection against unemployment. It also entails access to employment without discrimination and a supportive structure that aids access, including appropriate and free choice, skill building and vocational education. However, the economic survey 2008-09 and the union budget 2009-10 demonstrate how the burning issue of job losses – retrenchment, lay off, redundancy – in times of global financial crisis and economic slowdown, are perhaps the least understood of the economic, social and political concerns. There are clear evidences that the job losses have worsened in many sectors in the recent past, posing a threat to the overall inclusive growth prospects, and are a challenge to continue successful poverty reduction efforts. Job insecurity in the country is on the rise and an expected decline in growth and investment is likely to exacerbate this problem. It is critically important to recognize the issue, and build a political will to tame anti-labour atmosphere and practices. Supportive structures should come with innovative policies and programmes. Continue reading Job Losses: A Reality Check
Guest post by ANANT MARINGANTI
Speaking of successful litigation, one day after what some may call the makings of India’s rainbow coalition celebrated the Delhi High Court’s final verdict in the Naz Foundation case, agricultural workers in Andhra Pradesh celebrated a favorable interim order in the APVVU (AP Agricultural Workers Union) case. Judge N.Ramamohana Rao of AP High Court ignored the Additional Solicitor General’s objections and ordered that the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme wage rates be revised up from Rs 80 per day to the prevailing minimum wage of Rs 119 (111 and 112 in some areas) per day set by the Government of Andhra Pradesh. This will remain in force for 8 weeks. Of course, a favorable interim order does not imply that the final verdict will be favorable. But it bolsters the confidence of the contestants. It is a precious gift of time for solidarity building. And in this particular case, it will put an additional amount of a whopping Rs 31-40 per each of the 100 work days in a year in the hands of those availing work under the NREGA. It did not bring tears to the eyes, but in a general clime of judicial unresponsiveness to the claims of the poor it made many heave a sigh of relief. Continue reading Speaking of litigation: Anant Maringanti
Activist Working for Rights of Tribal People Arrested
Ms Shamim (nee Meghani) Modi, a law graduate working among the tribals in Betul district, Madhya Pradesh, has had to pay a heavy price for taking up the cause of tribal people and other industrial workers. Shamim, who works with the Samajwadi Jan Parishad (an organization of socialist-Gandhian orientation) has been put behind bars in Hoshangabad jail for exposing the corrupt nexus between politicians and the mining mafia. She was arrested in gross violation of democratic rights on 10th February 2009 from her residence at Harda, M.P. The process of attempting to secure bail from M.P High Court is now on.
The arrest was made on false charges, one of instigating tribals to ‘attack forest officials’ and another of ‘kidnapping with the intention to kill’ these officials! These charges were brought against her (and her husband) two years ago in 2007. Subsequently no enquiries were conducted, and no follow-up was done but the fact that these charges hung over their heads was presumably meant to cow them down. These charges have suddenly been resurrected because the administration has been under pressure from industrialist lobbies. Earlier, the trial court had rejected her bail plea despite the fact that the person supposed to have been ‘kidnapped’ was said to be present in court and denied any such thing. Another evidence, if any was still required, of the deep nexuses of power that operate at these levels. Continue reading The Arrest of Shamim Modi at Industrialists’ Behest
S. Anand draws his own conclusions from a trip to Azamgarh, about which Aditya Nigam had earlier written a post on Kafila.
While the urban elite, who can afford to indulge the growing fad of organic slow-food, would now happily pay a premium price for the hard bread (appreciating its high-fibre content) that Dalits were forced to eat owing to denial and deprivation, the rural Dalits are forced into the maida economy of Maggi Continue reading An epitaph for the bull-hull economy