Labour

May Day Photo Feature: No Lightening of Labour’s Burden at the End of the Tunnel

John Stuart Mill once said of the world of work, “It is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being.”

Today, automation in manufacturing is raising renewed fears around the world of joblessness while in India employment growth has fallen to a 7-year low. Of course, having a job – for millions upon millions of men, women and children across India – is not without its challenges and fears either. Of low pay, poor working, conditions, little or no social security or medical coverage and the sheer burden of toil.

On May Day, the international day of the worker, Shome Basu presents a photographic portrait of the Indian working class.

Childhood in peril. Credit: Shome Basu

Workers in India by Shome Basu20120918_ (1)

Heat, dust and sweat takes its toll. Credit: Shome Basu

Workers in India by Shome Basu20120918_ (12)

Stomachs to fill. Credit: Shome Basu

Workers in India by Shome Basu20120918_ (11)

For a pot of water. Credit: Shome Basu

Indian manual labour is in a brink. They are poor people. According to Indian governments planning commission people living below the poverty line (BPL) in rural areas must earn rupees 28 (half a US dollar) and in urban areas rupees 35 (0.75 $) per day. Most labourers are poor people earning RS 500 ($10) to Rs 3000 ($60) per month and all are living in brink . Photos by Shome Basu

Bravado in the face of little else. Credit: Shome Basu

Credit: Shome Basu

Wheeling away from the shadows of another day. Credit: Shome Basu

Credit: Shome Basu

A summer sprinkle. Credit: Shome Basu

Credit: Shome Basu

A battle for survival. Credit: Shome Basu

Credit: Shome Basu

Will the winds bring change? Credit: Shome Basu

Credit: Shome Basu

‘Brokeback’ Mandi. Credit: Shome Basu

Credit: Shome Basu

Saddled for burden. Credit: Shome Basu

Credit: Shome Basu

Looking for ‘shining India’. Credit: Shome Basu

Credit: Shome Basu

The cauldron burns on… Credit: Shome Basu

Credit: Shome Basu

Smoggy destinations. Credit: Shome Basu

Credit: Shome Basu

Shadows of the past; hopes of the future. Credit: Shome Basu

Credit: Shome Basu

Stony paths, weary feet. Credit: Shome Basu

Credit: Shome Basu

Hope smiles on. Credit: Shome Basu

Credit: Shome Basu

Man, Iron and Steel. Credit: Shome Basu

Credit: Shome Basu

Make-do helmets, make-do lives. Credit: Shome Basu

Credit: Shome Basu

It’s all in the eyes. Credit: Shome Basu

Credit: Shome Basu

The wait. Credit: Shome Basu

Credit: Shome Basu

Bricks of the future. Credit: Shome Basu

Credit: Shome Basu

We build.Whose nation? Credit: Shome Basu