WE CAN DO A LOT BY BEING HONEST TO THEM AND TO US..

COLORES INFINITUM

It is a busy public intersection in Delhi. All around are marketplaces, shops and big shopping malls. And there are street food vendors of all hues dotting the stretches on all sides.

The traffic red light at this public intersection is quite a busy one with long queues of vehicles on each side waiting for the signal to turn green. Throngs of people can be seen waiting for buses, auto-rickshaws and other modes of public transportation at every road diverting from that intersection. And in addition to all this, a regular flux of people keeps coming in and going out of the Delhi Metro station which is exactly above this intersection (Delhi Metro is an intra-city public transpiration system connecting to suburbs of Gurgaon, Noida, Ghaziabad and Faridabad).

As I stepped out of the Delhi Metro station, I saw a street food vendor badly pounding a handicapped man – in that hubbub of people – and no one was coming forward. In fact, a passerby like me tried to intervene and was meted with the same treatment. Well, the way he was thrashing that guy, with his both polio-affected legs, the incident first shocked me.

Yes, I have seen much more human brutality than this, but such things always shock me. But I knew I didn’t have much time and I was about to intervene when I saw this police patrol vehicle. By this time, I had clearly come to know that the vendor was drunk and the handicapped guy was a beggar.

So, here was this guy, a street food vendor and he was drunk, beating a handicapped person like hell and extending the same treatment to the other guy who tried to intervene, and there were people all around – most of them able-bodied who could easily take on that guy but were desisting from intervening. Probably, they all would be having their own reasons and reasoning.

Anyway, after my initial shock, my priority was to save this man because whatever was happening was grotesque, grossly inhuman and could never be justified in any possible way and then I saw this police vehicle. Well, being a journalist, I am comfortable in approaching police and whenever I do so, I am quite rigid and straight in my dealings with them.

That police vehicle was steps away under the shadow of Delhi Metro stairs and was not directly visible from the spot where this guy was being badly beaten by a drunken ruffian.

I spontaneously approached the police and they were there in no time. When a policeman from the patrol vehicle reached there, the street vendor was still exercising his meek bravado on a man who needed society’s care and support. As soon as he saw police, as normally happens, he changed his track. He started verbally abusing the guy of harassing him daily and trying to show nothing beyond that had happened. Probably, he thought no one would come forward to tell what he did – even if the handicapped guy had his shirt ripped apart and his ears had a shade of blood – probably (and rightly) he thought the police would not get bothered about a beggar.

Well, I was in no mood to let this happen. I could never have allowed this blasphemy. As soon as we reached the spot, I grabbed the vendor and pushed him away from the handicapped fellow. Then, I had some pretty tough and rough words for the policeman as well for this ruffian – for the police to do something – and for the vendor to dislodge him from his drunken tyranny.

I knew my words were meaningless for a drunken fellow of that mindset but it did make other people to join me in protesting the incident – who, till now, mere just mute spectators. I was quite agitated, and well, we all should be, in such circumstances. And it took a while for me to calm down, but not before the vendor had some ‘unofficial treatment the Indian police way’ and he was made to shell out money for treatment and clothes of the handicapped fellow. Meanwhile, another person came forward with a burger and reassuring words for him.

The final outcome was like this. The vendor would pay for rickshaw and doctor’s fee, in addition to what he had already given earlier, and another vendor there assured that he would ensure that nothing untoward happens after the episode. The policeman also said that he would keep a tight vigil and would inform the ‘beat police constables’ to keep a tab on the vendor.

While leaving, I warned the policeman and the vendors there I would come there again tomorrow to check on what I was promised.

I know we live in a society where there cannot be permanent solutions to such anomalies. What best you can do is to remain humane in your sphere of life and be true to the principles of humanity. Yes, it is very difficult, but once internalized, like an incident had done it with me a long ago, it becomes inseparable part of you.

You don’t need to become a reformer or an activist for doing so. Just a case by case approach would do. What we need to do is to remain honest in each case and to remain honest with what we see – because we, practically, cannot go into the past and the future of every such incident – or in fact, in almost of them.

When I was leaving, a man came and told us that whatever happened to this handicapped fellow was justified. He said the fellow begged in this entire area and would regularly engage in confrontation with society guards while under influence of alcohol.

That may be true but that doesn’t allow the vendor (or someone else) to beat this man. What this fellow did or what he does may be entirely wrong but justifying ‘beating him to pulp’ is equally inhuman. We have countless men and women in our society who need the state’s help for their rehabilitation – the help that never comes.

We can do a lot by being honest to them and to us – helping them whenever and wherever we can.

And thankfully, I don’t think I am doing something extraordinary by doing so. It is the basic minimum that we all need to do to express our gratitude for our existence here.

And one should always go ahead of this ‘basic minimum’.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

TODAY, I WAS NOT IN TWO MINDS..

COLORES INFINITUM

There are ways to fight the ways of life.

Every life has problems. No life is without its own set.

Yes, nature, degree and frequency of problems affecting lives vary from life to life.

The majority of humanity has more of them but even the privileged ones are not without issues in their lives.

Yes, the way to approach the problems, if differs for from life to life, is also dependent on the class and is affected by the concerned equations of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.

One can face the problems of life by accepting their presence, reconciling with the situations of life while trying to find ways out or ways up.

Or one can refuse to reconcile the way life has become while trying to rebuild the life.

I met this rickshaw-puller again today. And while he was not in queue, with his rickshaw parked away, I preferred to go to him.

It was a similar ride to what I had on the other day – but on a positive, confident note. While walking to his rickshaw today, I was not in two minds, unlike the other day.

Collage-Rickshawpuller-May28, 2015

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

EVEN IF I WAS IN TWO MINDS..

COLORES INFINITUM

Like it happens every day with them, they were calling to pull attention as I got down the Delhi Metro station. It was the hottest day of May so far, over 45 degree Celsius.

It was routine, calling passengers like this, but the rickshaw-puller on that day pulled my attention. He was a lanky fellow, lean and thin, extremely skinny. His bones were visible on his long and thin body. And he was underage too, certainly below 18.

His rickshaw was nearest to me so it was natural I would go him but after seeing him, I was in two minds.

It was more due to his physical structure than his age. I was in two minds that how would he pull the rickshaw and how would he climb up the patch of the track with a passenger ?

I am anti to underage labour but not the way it is in rulebooks. In fact, underage workers are prevalent and it is a burning truth about India and many societies in other. And it is not wrong. The first preference always goes to the survival instinct. And the primal survival instinct is to survive each passing day by first having food and a place to sleep.

And it is true for societies across the world. We may debate the age of underage workers. In India, education of children up to the age of 14 years is state responsibility. Children up to 14 years of age cannot be employed, except in ‘family enterprise’ and ‘entertainment trade’. Children above 14 years can work based on socioeconomic profile and survival needs.

This rickshaw-puller was around 16-17. Yes, like it happens he was not sure of his exact age. And like everyone, he had all the rights to make ends meet of his life. The family support for education goes up to at least 20-22 years of age but it is empty sociological theory for many. Education is still a distant dream, an ignored entity in the list of priorities of millions.

They know only one thing – somehow to survive the day – while thinking for the next. And it is true in societies across the world.

The rickshaw-pullers, originally from the hinterland India but toiling in big and metro cities, are a prime example of this social order, an order that is complex and multi-layered.

And like everyone in the society, this rickshaw-puller, too, had every right to survive the life, to meet the basic needs of the day and to think of the day coming next. There are many including me who feel heat pangs even if the window is of 10 minutes while the people like this rickshaw-puller earn their livelihood under the open sky, be it in the scorching heat of May or June or in the rainy days of Monsoon.

I was in two minds that how would this extremely lanky fellow would pull his rickshaw along with me. I was also thinking that I had no right to deny him his livelihood because if it was not me, he would carry someone else to earn his living.

The two minutes of dilemma gave way to saying yes to the rickshaw-puller. I was thinking he would not be able to pull the rickshaw easily and I would get down wherever required, i.e., on the upslope of the track. Also, as is the case with me, I was thinking simultaneously about my write-ups while taking the rickshaw-ride to my workplace. Public transport is my favourite for the reason that it provides me with time and ideas to think further about my written work.

While lost in my thoughts and looking all around, I asked the rickshaw-puller if he could pull me and if he went to the school.

He confidently said yes but what he said on my second question I could not understand. His language was not totally comprehensible but I could grasp from his words that he was around 16-17 years old and driving rickshaw at this age was his compulsion.

Soon he proved his words – about pulling the rickshaw. His speed was even faster than many well able-bodied ones. He was pulling rickshaw efficiently and easily. And he carried me to my destination in less than usual time.

I felt relieved – on the fact that he pulled rickshaw like any other rickshaw-puller, like any other able-bodied person. He did not show the problems I was thinking about. I was thinking to offer him some extra money but why I didn’t offer him I could not say.

But after leaving his rickshaw, I was feeling good that, somehow, even if I was in two minds, I took the right decision and didn’t deny a person the chance to add to his share of daily earning.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

BRICK KILN WORKERS: MUCH CRY BUT THE MISERY CONTINUES

A report by the International Labour Organization (Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour-ILO) on profits earned by the industries exploiting the forced labour coming from the poorest sections of the Indian ‘populations’.

The report says: “The annual revenue generated by a bonded labourer working in the brick kilns of India amounts to US$4,355. This value, when multiplied by the percentage of bonded labourers in the brick kilns, puts the annual revenue contribution of a brick-kiln bonded labourer to the total revenues generated by bonded labourers in South Asia at US$653.”

The report identifies some sectors including the brick kilns as such industries earning profits from the ‘bonded labour’. The other industries that it mentions are carpet weaving, rice and sugar cane industries.

In economically poorer regions with high unemployment, the standalone or small brick kiln operations do not operate on bonded labour but the condition is different for the larger players operating a number of kilns over a large geographical area requiring the manpower on absolutely low or almost non-existential wages or for the brick kilns operating in areas with short supply of manpower.

The forced migration of the labour due to poverty helps them in keeping their manpower in a consistent supply mode, in the ‘bonded labour’ conditions, where they extract the output mercilessly, even from the children.

Just a quick Google search with tags ‘bonded labour + brick kilns + India’ returns with a number of reports from credible research works and media outfits, right from the page-1, supporting the findings in the ILO report:

Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour – ILO – May 20, 2014 (The one that pushed to do this exercise.)

17 bonded labourers, their kids rescued from brick kiln – TNN Times News Network – May 9, 2014

Bonded labourers rescued from brick kiln – Times News Network – February 12, 2014

Why India’s brick kiln workers ‘live like slaves’ – BBC – January 2, 2014

Slave labour in Indian brick kilns – Union Solidarity International – October 9, 2013

No Bonded Labour anymore? Really? – ActionAid – May 16, 2013

A smart way to prevent bonded labour – ILO – May 3, 2013

Toddlers freed from brick kiln bondage – CNN – March 20, 2013

Bonded labour: Brick kilns biggest culprits, says report – Hindustan Times – September 8, 2012

Bonded Labour in India: Its Incidence and Pattern – ILO – 2005

And there are really too many, crying out loud, but not able to make much difference. The misery continues.

The brick kiln workers in ‘bonded conditions’ are taken in as faceless identities and they never know when they would get out. And most of them never realize the meaning of words or phrases like ‘freedom’, ‘bonded labour’, ‘slavery’, ‘labour laws’ or for that matter, ‘human rights’.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

BRICK KILNS: WHERE WORKERS ARE NEVER TREATED AS ‘WORKERS’

Those having the roots in rural India know it well – the brick kiln workers. What drew my attention to them was an International Labour Organization report on profits earned by the industries exploiting the poverty of the people forced to work in out of their financial misery.

The report identifies some sectors including the brick kilns as such industries earning profits from the ‘bonded labour’.

The other industries that it mentions are carpet weaving, rice and sugar cane industries.

Brick kilns are a regular feature throughout the India dotting the country’s landscape. Cities and towns have them on outskirts. And for villages, these are regulars, employing the folks from the lowest strata, the unskilled labourers.

In my childhood, I used to marvel at the efficiency of carving a simple-designed brick from the mud and heating the soil to make it a solid red-coloured block. Some of my family’s land was contracted to a brick kiln owner and I had some chances to visit there.

I used to question others why they were paid so less and why they used to live like that – soaked in dirt with no moments to take rest. And the condition has not changed much since my childhood.

It was a small operation and there was nothing like bonded labour as much as I could gather then. Yes, people working there were living in abject poverty and were ready to grab whatever earning opportunity they could have had through their physical labour.

But as I grew up and started getting the real sense of the social vulnerabilities of India’s societal formations through my associations and collaborations with some NGOs, I could gauge how deep the problem was.

Standalone or small brick kiln operations do not operate on bonded labour in economically backward regions as the labour is available but the condition is different for the larger players operating a number of kilns over a large geographical area or for brick kilns operating in areas with short supply of manpower to do this labour intensive work that badly affects the health of the workers.

Workers are still paid shamelessly low and the large operators need constant supply of cheap manpower to maintain their business on a consistent running mode.

And to ensure that, keeping the labour ‘bonded’ somehow is the ‘safest’ option for them. And given the poverty of the brick kiln workers, they get it done easily. And these mercenaries do not care if the worker is an adult or a child. The forced migration of the labour helps them in keeping a tight tab on their workforce that they never care for.

Being a ‘worker’ demands the conditions on ‘labour laws’ to be met but they are never treated as the ‘workers’. They are taken in as faceless identities and they remain so as long as they remain there, with no exit options to exercise.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

WHERE HUNGER IS HUMILIATED BY OPULENCE

UNEQUAL CHILDREN OF EQUAL GODS (II)

Life traded, its living force emasculated
Men in several skins enervated
Existences berated, moments confiscated
Souls in several layers manipulated
In a world,
That is said to be your creation
In a world,
Where every element is said to be your manifestation
But, in a world,
Where the devil grows, threatens destruction
But, in a world,
Where the humanity is shadowed, increasingly mutilated
But, in a world,
Where a man is predator on a man
But, in a world,
Where a soul scavenges on a soul
In a world,
Where a life hunts a life
Where an existence kills an existence
Where an identity buries an identity
Where hunger is humiliated by opulence
Where misery is aggravated by abundance
Where humanity increasingly becomes inhuman
Why they say we all are born equal..
Who are they who say we all are born equal..

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

WHO ARE THEY WHO SAY WE ARE BORN EQUAL?

UNEQUAL CHILDREN OF EQUAL GODS (I)

Who are they who say,
That,
We all are born equal,
That,
We all are the equal children of the god,
In a world,
Fraught with the layers of class divide
In a world,
Splintered with classes of social strife
In a world,
Humiliated with the masses crucified
Who are they who still say,
That,
We all are born equal,
In a world of growing inequality,
Shackled by class, caste and religion,
Where,
The divide begins at birth
Where,
The inequity continues even after life
Who are they who still say,
That,
We all are the equal children of the god

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/