Posts Tagged ‘Caste System’

Fears of social unrest ahead as India’s rise creates new underclass

January 5, 2008

Double-edged boom hits India’s poor

Fears of social unrest ahead as country’s rise creates new underclass
From Raymond Thibodeaux in New Delhi

EVEN AMID the chaotic swarm of Delhi’s traffic, with horns blaring and trucks and buses rumbling past, Omprekash Takur’s place of business remains a bastion of stillness and calm. Which is a good thing, as Takur’s speciality is open-razor shaves.

Takur has spent nearly 10 years at this barber shop, or what passes for a barber shop: a small stretch of pavement with a rusted chair, a plastic table for his shaving kit, two pairs of scissors, a comb and a square mirror hanging from a nail driven into the trunk of a tamarind tree, its leaves darkened by soot and dust kicked up by the traffic.

“My father taught me to do this when I was seven and I’ve been doing it ever since. My teachers would beat me for skipping classes, but I enjoyed making money from cutting hair,” said the slight, dark-skinned Takur, now 27, as he loaded a fresh blade into the razor.
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India’s city streets are filled with people like Takur – barbers, ear cleaners, cobblers and tailors, a rag-tag platoon of kerbside personal assistants for the country’s urban masses. But for many of them, India’s economic rise has chipped away at their client base as a growing number of Indians are better able to afford more upmarket versions of their services at newly sprouted shopping malls.

The huge wealth being generated by India’s booming economy has been slow to trickle down to the street level, where most of the country’s 400 million workers ply their trades. Typically, they are poorly educated and semi-skilled, and toil away in a shadowy, informal economy that falls under the radar of most government controls and protections.

As India’s rises, the gap between rich and poor appears to be widening. With a 6% inflation rate, the new India seems to be backfiring on the poor, who are hardest hit by increases in the cost of basic necessities such as food and shelter. This has stoked fears of a looming social turmoil in this country of 1.1 billion people, as a growing and increasingly restive underclass is left to fend for itself as India’s economic tide turns.

“These are our electricians, our plumbers, our housemaids and our drivers. They are the backbone of our economic success, and yet they live in slums,” said Ranjana Kumari, director for the Centre of Social Research in New Delhi, a non-governmental agency focused on India’s workplace.

“There is a serious flaw in the government policies that guide our economy. There needs to be more government initiative to care for these workers and give them a bigger share of the wealth.”

So far, India’s pro-growth government has been reluctant to burden businesses with costly regulations that would do just that. And many Indian companies have been unwilling to absorb them as formal employees, who would then be entitled to the few perks already required by law: health benefits, pension plans, holidays and severance pay.

As a result, about 93% of India’s workforce remains informal and unorganised.

“Ideally, we want to formalise our entire workforce, give them pensions and health benefits and so on, but that’s going to take a long time,” said Pronab Sen, the Indian government’s chief statistician. Part of the hold-up is that more and more rural Indians are abandoning their farms and moving to urban areas to seek better jobs as rickshaw drivers, street sweepers and barbers. These workers are hard to keep track of and much harder to organise.

“The informal sector is an extremely important transition between the rural areas and the cities. It allows the people to learn different trades that are more useful and better-paying,” Sen said.

In the shade of the tamarind tree, Takur dipped his shaving brush in hot water and lathered up another scruffy face, his third in the space of an hour. He said he usually rakes in at least £3 a day, three times the daily wage of most Indians. It’s enough to support his wife and his three sons, aged six, four and two.

Asked how India’s boom had benefited him, he said: “It hasn’t.” But a client, a rickshaw taxi driver waiting his turn in the barber’s chair, pointed out that Takur had doubled his prices since last year.

“Yes, that’s true, but that is not really a benefit to me,” said Takur, using his palm to wipe shaving cream off the razor. “My supplies are costing more, so I must pass that on to my customer.”

Sunday Herald

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In 2007, India let its children down : UNICEF Report

December 12, 2007

New Delhi: Exactly a year ago, the chopped remains of some children of daily wage earners and migrants were recovered from a drain in Nithari, a village on the outskirts of the Indian capital.

For a country with a child population of over 445 million, of whom 126 million are less than five years old, the unearthing of 20 dismembered bodies of missing kids at the fag end of 2006 was a shocking revelation of how India neglects its children. Most of children had been sexually abused and mutilated.

One year later, India continues to be among the worst performers in the world in terms of ensuring that children have the basic right to survive, even though policies and processes for their protection and development are in place.

As per Unicef’s Progress for Children report released in December 2007, an estimated 2.1 million children in India died before their fifth birthday in one year. Of these, one million deaths were of neonates, or less than 29-day-old infants, from preventable causes. Globally, this means a quarter of all neo-natal deaths in the world occurred in India.

Among the surviving infants, 8.3 million infants were low weight babies (less than 2,500 grams), who got a disadvantaged start in life. Nearly 50 per cent of these low weight babies died before their fifth birthday. In fact, about one-third of less-than-five-year-old underweight children in the world are in India.

The country has made significant advances towards eradication of polio but the programme suffered setbacks in 2007 with the virus continuing to circulate and resurface in some states like Bihar.

Quoting from the report, a Unicef advocacy and partnership official, said: “India has the largest number of children in the world who have not been vaccinated.”

The country, however, is doing well with respect to providing safe drinking water, the key factor in ensuring child survival. It is estimated that 84.5 per cent rural and 95 per cent urban populations have sustainable access to safe drinking water.

But poor hygiene leading to diarrhoea and other diseases continues to take its toll on India’s children. In 2004, an estimated 700 million people in India were not using improved sanitation facilities. According to the National Family Health Survey data (2005-06), only 45 per cent of households in the country had access to improved sanitation.

On the education front, the news is mixed. Globally, the number of dropouts has declined significantly – from 115 million in 2002 to 93 million in 2005-06. Considering that six to 10 is the primary school age in India, 84 per cent of children are attending school.

Gender parity in education is a challenge for India. For 100 boys in primary school, there are 96 girls and for 100 boys in secondary school, there are only 80 girls. Nearly all children out of school are engaged in different forms of labour.

It is estimated that while globally 158 million children aged between 5 and 14 work as labourers, India accounts for 18 percent of the world’s burden – approximately 29 million.

Said a Unicef spokesperson: “Much like the public outcry that ensued following the discovery of children’s remains in Nithari, a similar alacrity is needed to ensure that India’s children get their due. To make India fit for children, a social movement is the need of the hour.”

The Nithari case is still in court while the accused – Moninder Singh Pandher and his domestic help Surinder Koli – are in police custody.

Global Hindutva in support of Gujarat’s super hindu leader

December 3, 2007

A large number of Gujarati NRIs have landed in their native state to lend support to political parties they are backing in the upcoming assembly election, due on December 11 and 16.

Many are supporters of incumbent Narendra Modi, who feel the state has developed under the stewardship of the BJP leader. Opposing them are a considerable number of Congress
supporters, who say Modi has divided the state.

Although they cannot vote in the state assembly polls, the NRIs who have come from places like the UK and US are pumping in huge amounts of money in campaigning, besides trying to woo voters for the party of their choice.

”Though I can’t vote, still I would like to see to it that the right people are voted to power. Even if I can’t vote I would like to make sure that other 100 people at least go and vote. It’s very important,” says 42-year-old Rajen Patel from London, an ardent supporter of Modi.

Patel, who claims he campaigned for former US vice president Al Gore when he was in the presidential race, says about 100 like-minded NRIs in the UK have decided to come to Gujarat to support Modi as they believe he is ushering in growth and development.

”We would like to invest in Gujarat as things have improved a lot here. There is less of corruption now and action is taken on complaints made even over phones,” he says.

Rejecting the claims of development under Modi’s government are Congress supporters, who have also come together based on their political affiliation.

”What development are they talking about? Everything is a hogwash. No state can develop where people are divided. And that’s what BJP has done here,” says Deepak Amin, who has come all the way from Seattle (US) to support Congress.

”To be number one you have to be united first. When you talk about Hindu rastra, you ignore the rest of the people in the country. What about them?” Amin laments.

He says he is in touch with at least 15 other like-minded NRIs from various countries.

”We have held several rounds of meetings in Seattle, New York, New Jersey etc to discuss our agenda before coming to India. We will be reaching out to people to pass on our message,” Amin says.

He said his ‘group’ was opposed to the way BJP is bragging about development in Gujarat, adding ”It’s just like their ‘India Shining’ campaign”.

But the Modi camp would like to differ. ”There’s discipline, peace and harmony now unlike earlier,” says Patel.

On his group’s strategy, Patel says, ”We will place ourselves in different regions of the state. Like five-six people in Vadodara, 10 in Ahmedabad and four in Surat, while one of us will be travelling to meet people and help the party in the electoral process.”

He claims Modi has many fans in the UK and US who want to know what can they do to help their state.

Only 8 % of Indians go for higher education

November 29, 2007

Only eight percent of Indian students finishing school go for higher education – compared to 20 per cent in China – and the country needs 1,500 new universities in the next seven years to bridge the shortfall of skilled workers, India’s Knowledge Commission has said.

The 82nd annual conference of the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) that came to an end here Wednesday saw some such hard truths being spoken about universities in India.

The three-day meet at the Anna University campus discussed the content of the Knowledge Commission policy and the various higher education policies being implemented in India at present.

‘Higher education sets the standards for development,’ said Y.C. Simhadri, AIU president.

A Knowledge Commission report has said that India would need 1,500 new universities in the next seven years.

It also says that only eight percent of Indian students finishing school go for higher education. In China, the figure is 20 percent while in developed countries, as much as 70 percent students leaving school go to college.

Nasscom chairman and Cognizant chief N. Lakshmi Narayanan said India may face a shortfall of half a million skilled workers by 2010 if universities do not churn out well-trained students.

‘If India wants to be a knowledge economy, it will need 2.3 million professionals in three years time,’ he added.

‘The need of the hour is to create more research parks in the country and encourage innovation by students,’ he said. He advocated that a statutory body should be given the task of enforcing regulation.

‘A major cause of concern about higher education in India is the regulatory system.’

Pitching for self-regulation, he said: ‘This may well be the time for the country’s academic leaders to evolve a new self-regulatory regime that puts the onus of maintaining standards on the collective wisdom of academicians.’

He also advocated the need to look at opening up the education sector to foreign universities to ensure a steady flow of globalised talent.

Narayanan said that Nasscom is planning to introduce a National Assessment of Competence-Technical (NAC-Tech) that would test the skills of technical graduates from higher education institutions across the country.

Tamil Nadu Minister for Higher Education K. Ponmudi, in his opening address, said in many Indian universities, especially the private ones,today ‘we have a situation where the father is the chancellor of the deemed university, one son is the pro-chancellor and another is the vice-chancellor.’

‘Where is the space for scholarly academicians to lead such institutions into latest and relevant research and produce brilliant students?’ he asked.

‘Most vice chancellors give more importance to administrationthan academics,’ the minister charged.

‘You should concentrate more on academics because that alone can help improve the quality of institutions,’ he told the gathering of 150 vice chancellors from Indian universities and delegates from 20 foreign universities, including France and the Netherlands.

‘We only have vice chancellors, whereas we need wise chancellors!’ was his parting shot.

INDIAENEWS.COM From correspondents in Tamil Nadu, India,  Nov 29, 2007

India, Where paradoxes reign supreme

November 26, 2007

It has become a cliché to speak of India as a land of paradoxes. The old joke about our country is that anything you say about India, the opposite is also true. We like to think of ourselves as an ancient civilisation but we are also a young republic; our IT experts stride confidently into the 21st century but much of our population seems to live in each of the other 20 centuries. Quite often the opposites co-exist quite cheerfully.

One of my favourite images of India is from the last Kumbha mela, of a naked sadhu, with matted hair, ash-smeared forehead and scraggly beard, for all the world a picture of timeless other-worldliness, chatting away on a cellphone. I even suggested it to the publishers of my newest book of essays on India as a perfect cover image, but they assured me it was so well-known that it had become a cliché in itself.

And yet, clichés are clichés because they are true, and the paradoxes of India say something painfully real about our society.

How does one come to terms with a country whose population is still nearly 40% illiterate but which has educated the world’s second-largest pool of trained scientists and engineers, many of whom are making a flourishing living in Silicon Valley? How does one explain a land where peasant organisations and suspicious officials once attempted to close down Kentucky Fried Chicken as a threat to the nation, where a former prime minister bitterly criticised the sale of Pepsi-Cola since 250 million of our countrymen and women don’t have access to clean drinking water, and which yet invents more sophisticated software for the world’s computer manufacturers than any other country on the planet? A place where bullock carts are still an indispensable mode of transportation for millions, but whose rocket and satellite programmes are amongst the most advanced on earth?

The paradoxes go well beyond the nature of our entry into the 21st century. Our teeming cities overflow while two out of three Indians still scratch a living from the soil. We have been recognised, for all practical purposes, as a leading nuclear power, but 600 million Indians still have no access to electricity and there are daily power cuts even in the nation’s capital.

Ours is a culture which elevated non-violence to an effective moral principle, but whose freedom was born in blood and whose independence still soaks in it. We are the world’s leading manufacturers of generic medication for illnesses such as AIDS, but we have three million of our own citizens without access to AIDS medication, another two million with TB, and tens of millions with no health centre or clinic within 10 kilometres of their places of residence.

Bollywood makes four times as many movies as Hollywood, but 150 million Indians cannot see them, because they are blind. India holds the world record for the number of cellphones sold (8.5 million last month), but also for the number of farmer suicides (4000 in the Vidarbha district of Maharashtra alone last year).

This month, in mid-November, the prestigious Forbes magazine list of the world’s top billionaires made room for 10 new Indian names. The four richest Indians in the world are collectively worth a staggering $180 billion, greater than the GDP of a majority of member states of the United Nations. Indian papers have reported with undisguised glee that these four (Lakshmi Mittal, the two Ambani brothers, and DLF chief K P Singh) are worth more than the 40 richest Chinese combined.

We seem to find less space in our papers to note that though we have more dollar billionaires than in any country in Asia – even more than Japan, which has been richer longer – we also have 260 million people living below the poverty line. And it’s not the World Bank’s poverty line of $1 a day, but the Indian poverty line of Rs 360 a month, or 30 cents a day – in other words, a line that’s been drawn just this side of the funeral pyre.

Last month, the Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex crossed 20,000, just 20 months after it had first hit 10,000; but on the same day, some 25,000 landless people marched to Parliament, clamouring for land reform and justice. We have trained world-class scientists and engineers, but 400 million of our compatriots are illiterate, and we also have more children who have not seen the inside of a school than any other country in the world does.

We have a great demographic advantage in 540 million young people under 25 (which means we should have a dynamic, youthful and productive workforce for the next 40 years when the rest of the world, including China, is ageing) but we also have 60 million child labourers, and 72% of the children in our government schools drop out by the eighth standard. We celebrate India’s IT triumphs, but information technology has employed a grand total of 1 million people in the last five years, while 10 million are entering the workforce each year and we don’t have jobs for them.

Many of our urban youth rightly say with confidence that their future will be better than their parents’ past, but there are Maoist insurgencies violently disturbing the peace in 165 of India’s 602 districts, and these are largely made up of unemployed young men.

So yes, we are a land of paradoxes, and amongst those paradoxes is that so many of us speak about India as a great power of the 21st century when we are not yet able to feed, educate and employ our people. And yet, India is more than the sum of its contradictions. It may be a country rife with despair and disrepair, but it nonetheless moved a Mughal Emperor to declaim, ‘‘if on earth there be paradise of bliss, it is this, it is this, it is this…’’ We just have a lot more to do before it can be anything like paradise for the vast majority of our fellow citizens.

25 Nov 2007, 0000 hrs IST,Shashi Tharoor, Times of India

Farmers commit suicides in India’s developed states

November 23, 2007

22 Nov 2007, Vishwa Mohan & Nitin Sethi,TNN

NEW DELHI: Data derived from first information reports filed all over the country and compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau has revealed that it is the farmer in economically more developed states, not traditional BIMARU ones, who is the most vulnerable.

What the statistics bring out clearly is that the misfortune of living in states with scarce opportunities is not the most important trigger. Its not states like Bihar and UP which have the worst situations. States that do well on counts of industrialisation and development indices – Maharashtra, Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka – have the worst report cards. West Bengal, where land reforms are said to have improved conditions in the countryside, is not doing too well either.

In Maharashtra, 3,926 farmers committed suicide in 2005 alone. That is more than one-fourth of the total toll in the state. Andhra follows with 2,490. Karnataka reported 1,883. Surprisingly, unlike other “backward” states, Chhattisgarh reported a higher tally (1,412) than Tamil Nadu (1,255), Madhya PradeshP (1,248), Kerala (1,118) and West Bengal (965).

While the data – presented in statistical terms – does not touch upon reasons, it is easy to see worrying trends in states that have adopted the cash-crop economy extensively and have wide disparities in terms of urban-rural areas, as well as within rural areas. Vidarbha is a good example of regional disparity even as its largest city Nagpur, records an economic boom driven by construction. Despite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s much-reported intervention, Vidarbha farmers remain economically crippled.

In comparison, backward states, with the exception of Chhattisgarh, are better off. So, UP with a huge 16.5% share of the population, accounts for only 3% of the national toll of all suicides, including those by farmers. The big state reported only 522 suicides in 2005. The figures for Orissa, Bihar and Jharkhand for the year, in that order, were 254, 124 and 39.

NCRB has come up with provisional figures for 2006 and these are gross figures for all states. The total numbers have risen, but the bare statistics can provide partial perspectives.

Due to the collapse of village economy, there is a collateral fallout in terms of ancillary workers and some of 18,759 people who committed suicides in 2005 in the worst-affected states are classified as self-employed, as different from being involved in a business or professional activity, might be victims of rural crisis.

Considering that NCRB records do not bring out “bankruptcy” as one of the major factors despite the fact about indebtedness forcing farmers to end their lives, the government needs to rework the classifications. Perhaps room may have to be made to factor in the role of loss of esteem that forces farmers to commit suicide.

Even tiny Puducherry had recorded 147 suicides by farmers in 2005. That is more than the number recorded in all other UTs put together. Similarly, there is Bengal which recorded 965 suicides, much higher than most of the states.

17 million children in India work out of compulsion

November 14, 2007

Children’s Day under the shadow of the rape of childhood

We observe November 14, the birthday of the first Prime Minister of India, Chacha Nehru as Children’s Day. But a look at the condition of children in India makes one question the significance of November 14?  Do we really cherish our future citizens?

THE DEFINITION OF a ‘child’ in the Indian legal and policy framework is someone below 18 years. Our laws are neither child friendly nor child oriented. Here are few figures:

* Less than half of India’s children between the age of six and 14 go to school.
* Only 38 per cent of children below two years are immunized.
* Over 50 per cent children are malnourished.
* One out of every six girls does not live to see her 15th birthday.
* Of 12 million girls born, one million do not see their first birthday.
* Females are victimized far more than males in their childhood.
* 53 per cent of girls in the age group of five to nine years are illiterate.
* There are two million child commercial sex workers between the age of five and 15 years.
* 17 million children in India work out of compulsion, not out of choice.

The child is the future of a nation. But children are a neglected lot in India, which is evident from the distressing statistics of infant mortality, child morbidity, child malnutrition, childhood disability, child abuse, child labour, child prostitution, street children, child beggary, child marriage, juvenile delinquency, drug addiction and illiteracy.

Trafficking in humans, including children, is a violation of the fundamental rights of human beings. International estimates indicate that at least 1.2 million children are trafficked each year, many of them subjected to prostitution, forced into marriage or unpaid labour, or are recruited into armed groups. Child labour is, generally speaking, work undertaken by children that harm them or exploit them in some way (physically, mentally, morally, or by blocking access to education). 40 per cent of India’s population is below 18 years of age. At 400 million, we have the world’s largest child population. At 17 million, we have the ‘distinction’ of being home to world’s largest population of child labourers. These are official figures; activists say that the real number is even larger.

Constitutions of most countries, including India, have provisions forbidding child labour. Its elimination is one of the millennium development goals adopted unanimously by the United Nations.

Children should not have to work for a living. Childhood is when a person needs nurturing, schooling, time to play and explore, and opportunity to grow, both emotionally and physically. When a child is forced to work, it hampers his growth, stunts his psychological and intellectual development, and prevents him from realising his full potential.

Child labour is an unmitigated evil and any society that suffers from it should be grossly ashamed of that fact. Child labour, trafficking are symptoms, not the problem. The problem lies elsewhere and unless the problem itself is addressed, merely addressing the symptoms makes the situation immensely worse for the victim children.

In India, children’s vulnerabilities and exposure to violations of their protection rights remains spread and multiple in nature. There are a wide range of issues that adversely impact on children in India, making them especially vulnerable. With such future citizens in large numbers, the future of our country is bleak.

Rishabh Srivastava, MeriNews.COM, 13 November 2007, Tuesday

55 percent women anaemic, 40 percent kids underweight: NFHSreport

October 11, 2007

More than half the women in India  are anaemic and one in three child is underweight.

‘Anaemia is disturbingly common among adults. 55 percent of women in India are anaemic and 43 percent of kids below the age of three are underweight,’ reveals the final report of the National Family Health Survey – III (NFHS-3), released Thursday.

‘Anaemia among pregnant women during that period has also increased. Even though men are much less likely than women to be anaemic, anaemia levels in men are at around 24 percent,’ the NFHS survey revealed.

The findings showed that malnutrition continues to be a significant health problem for children and adults in India.

‘There has been very marginal change in the percentage of children who are underweight. From 43 percent underweight children in 1998-99 to 40 percent in 2006.’

NFHS-3 also found high prevalence of anaemia – 70 percent in children aged 6-59 months. Anaemia is primarily linked to poor nutrition.

‘Women and men suffer a dual burden of over nutrition and under nutrition. More than one third of women are too thin, while 13 percent are overweight.

‘One-third of men are too thin, and 9 percent are overweight or obese. The states with the largest percentage of overweight women and men are in Punjab, Kerala, and Delhi, especially among the more educated,’ the survey pointed out.

Absent teachers resulting in 22.5 % education funds India

August 14, 2007

A classroom struggle

Schools be damned. That seems to be the only message that keeps getting hammered with every disheartening report on the status of schooling in India. If last week it was the severe step of having to file FIRs against teachers in the face of a staggering number of cases of abuse of children, a Unesco report has found that 25 per cent of teachers do not bother with attending school. Absent teachers result in a whopping 22.5 per cent of education funds being wasted. Add to this a previous report compiled by the Ministry of Human Resource Department that shows 23,000 schools across India have no teacher, and the picture is frightening. The cataclysmic deterioration in government education services, coupled with corruption and a bureaucratic set-up that dissuades many private players from starting schools has at its crux one issue: the lowering standards of teachers in India.

The bar is so low today that the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights’ (NCPCR) proposal to expand the definition of corporal punishment to cover any form of adverse treatment meted out to schoolchildren is actually welcome. The Delhi High Court banned corporal punishment six years ago. According to the panel, school officials may be jailed for scolding students or calling them ‘stupid’ or ‘mindless’. The commission has also asked parents to fearlessly file FIRs against teachers and officials if their wards are rapped on the knuckles, made to run on the school ground or kneel for hours, beaten with a ruler, pinched and slapped. The restrictions may seem severe, but we can get some perspective once we consider that sexual abuse of minors is one of the most reported crimes today. States have been cavalier in enforcing the ban on corporal punishments, despite the fact that the National Policy on Education’s recommendation of banning physical punishment more than two decades ago.

India’s teacher problem is multi-dimensional. From recruitment to training, from remuneration to accountability, the teaching community has failed schools on most counts. Until teacher reform is addressed in a far more aggressive and scientific manner, there is little hope that the much-flaunted demographic dividend can ever be utilised for a knowledge economy.

August 13, 2007, Hindustan Times

316 million Indian workers get below $ 0.49 (Rs. 20) a day

August 12, 2007
  • 394.9 million workers (86 per cent of the working population) belong to the unorganized sector
  • 316 million workers live on less than Rs. 20, or $ 0.49, a day.
  • 88 per cent of the Scheduled Tribes and the Scheduled Castes, 80 per cent of the Other Backward Classes and 85 per cent of Muslims belong to this category of people living on less than Rs. 20 a day.
  • 90 per cent of agricultural labor households are landless or have less than one hectare of holding*
  • agriculture is getting feminized with 73 per cent women being associated with it compared to 52 per cent men.

NEW DELHI: An overwhelming 79 per cent of workers in the unorganised sector live with an income of less than Rs. 20 a day, according to the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS).

A report on “Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihoods in Unorganised Sector,” released by the Commission here on Thursday, says over 394.9 million workers (86 per cent of the working population) belong to the unorganised sector and work under “utterly deplorable” conditions with “extremely few livelihood options.”
“Poor, vulnerable”

The report says that 88 per cent of the Scheduled Tribes and the Scheduled Castes, 80 per cent of the Other Backward Classes and 85 per cent of Muslims belong to the category of “poor and vulnerable,” who earn less than Rs. 20 a day.

In 2004-05, a total of 836 million (77 per cent) had an income below Rs. 20 a day.

Landless

Households of the small and marginal farmers account for 84 per cent and are forced to spend more than they earn and are under debt, while 90 per cent of agricultural labour households are landless or have less than one hectare of holding.

The conditions in the non-agricultural sectors are no better with 21 to 46 per cent of men and 57 to 83 per cent of women being employed as casual workers, who get less than minimum wages.

As per the survey, the latest trends indicate that agriculture is getting feminised with 73 per cent women being associated with it compared to 52 per cent men.

The NCEUS attributes the plight of the unorganised workers to a lack of comprehensive and appropriate legislation and the absence of targeted programmes.

Inadequate

Where laws exist, the Commission finds their implementation inadequate. Also, they are seldom focussed on unorganised workers.

Releasing the report, NCEUS Chairman Arjun Sengupta said the panel had recommended a Rs. 45,000-crore action plan for the overall improvement of the unorganised sector.

Aug 10, 2007, Hindu

LEFTYPROF