The Life of Labour: Plight of Betel Farmers; Nexus Between Sugar Industry, Govt

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Agricultural Crisis

Rising costs, lack of subsidy force Bharatpur’s betel farmers to migrate

In Bharatpur, around 350 million betel leaves are produced every year. But lack of subsidy and insurance has forced the farmers to migrate to Jaipur for daily wage jobs. “We depend on betel leaves for our living. The family sells 45 leaves for Rs 100. We want to increase the acreage but cannot do it because of poor rainfall here and lack of water for irrigation,” Girish Kumar told the Hindustan Times. Weather and lack of irrigation have hurt him but because betel leaves aren’t considered horticulture, they don’t count for subsidies or other benefits.

How the corrupt nexus between the sugar industry and the governments affects farmers

Illustration by Aliza Bakht

Illustration by Aliza Bakht

“If there is one crop that affects India’s economy, water supply and promotes nepotism, it is sugarcane. India is the second-largest producer of sugar in the world, after Brazil. While most of Brazil’s sugar is exported — where a large ethanol fuel lobby promotes growth — it is a cruel paradoxical situation in India. Farmers, who were encouraged by their political masters to farm sugarcane, are facing an existential crisis,” writes Down to Earth magazine.

The article examines how sugar production is tied up with politics, not limited to Sharad Pawar. Apparently, out of 183 mills, 101 of them had chairmen who had engaged in state or national level politics. The government has been remarkably proactive about fixing minimum support prices and giving out loans.

Gender and work

Meet Mejim Dususow, an ASHA Surviving at the Margins of India’s Health System

The Wire speaks to an ASHA worker who has been delivering babies in Nagaland for more than 20 years. She says, “Life as an ASHA isn’t easy”. She gets paid Rs 600 per delivery and handles about three to four deliveries every month. She also runs a small shop to help pay for household expenses. Her husband is a peon in the forest department and pays for most of their household expenses.

Also read: A Multitude of Challenges Facing Women Home-Based Workers in Delhi

Death at Work

Six workers hurt in fire at a garments factory

A fire broke out in a garment factory in Khandsa industrial area near Gurgaon injuring six workers – four with 30% burns and two with 70% burns. They are all currently in a hospital in Delhi. They were all from Uttar Pradesh.

The Hindu was told that “They had worked two hours extra till 2 am after their regular duty hours got over and decided to stay back in a room in the basement before going back home in the morning. An hour later, the fire broke out apparently due to short-circuit while they were asleep. They were engulfed in the flames by the time they woke up,”

Employees sort clothes before packing them at the Estee garment factory in Tirupur, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Credit: Mansi Thapliyal/Reuters

Four die cleaning stormwater pumping station in Ahmedabad, probe on

Four sanitation workers in Ahmedabad died of asphyxiation after inhaling poisonous gases while cleaning a storm water drain. The workers were all contract workers and they were declared dead as soon as they were pulled out of the drain.

The police have registered “accidental death” and have registered no case against the contractor yet. There is no mention of any safety gear or whether any care was taken to ensure the safety of the workers.

Precarious Work

The crippling of the public sector 

National Herald, the newspaper associated with the Congress, published a scathing article that lists the various ways the NDA government has failed PSUs, many of which are huge employers in this country.

“The ONGC was arms-twisted by the government first to bail out the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) with its reserves when it was forced to buy a barren gas block from GSPC at Rs 8000 crore. Then it was forced to by a sick Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) for ₹36,915 crore in an off-market deal,” the newspaper published.

While disinvestment has been a national policy for years, the NDA has used PSUs indiscriminately without regard to broader economic policy. There have reports of huge job losses in BSNL and unions have been complaining of wilful negligence from the government.

Also read: Manual Scavengers in Rajasthan Struggle to Be Recruited as Govt Sanitation Workers

Other News

The brick-makers of Kanpur

In a recent essay by Rupe India, Manali Chakrabarti writes about the brick-makers of Kanpur. They primarily follow a 75-year-old woman referred to as Didi who has been working for four decades with children of migrant workers. The essay describes the children for whom even the most basic education could possibly be life-changing.

It also describes the poor state of the workers at the kiln: “The owner of the kiln releases water once a day (usually in the night) to wet the earth for making the sludge for the bricks. The workers filled up the holes, and the same water was used for not only mixing clay but also for all of their own daily requirements – cleaning, toilet, bathing, washing and even for utensils.”

TCS CEO’s annual pay rises 28%, takes home over Rs 16 crore in FY19

While employees have received on average 6% increases in their salaries, top executives in TCS are all receiving pay raises, as high as 24%. The discourse on economic inequality hasn’t really gotten going in India with nobody really discussing the huge gaps between the payment of senior and junior employees of these large companies.

Cyclone Ockhi: Increasing number of rough sea alerts worry fisherfolk

In Kerala, government-sent rough weather alerts have been receiving criticism from fisherfolk as these warnings have been stopping them from going out on to the sea. The weather warnings are well-intentioned but when they turn out to be wrong or not localised, the loss of income has distressed fisherfolk.

A fisherman and his wife row their boat as it rains heavily on the outskirts of Kochi, May 29, 2018. Credit: Reuters/Sivaram V

Thresya, a fish vendor, told the Hindu he agrees, “On the days of such warnings, the catch that comes to our harbour is priced high. But when you take it to your customers on a sunny day and try to explain that the exorbitant rate is due to ‘bad weather,’ they do not believe you. Many people have stopped buying from us.”

Also read: On May Day, India’s Temple Builders Demand Workplace Safety Against Silicosis

International News

Big brands like H&M, Adidas, Gap entangled in China’s campaign against Uighur Muslim minority

There have been horrifying reports from China about the government’s indoctrination camps for the Muslim Uighur minority. But now there are reports about how these how those concentration camps are being used as slave labour for factories that supply big Western brands like H&M, Adidas, Gap.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Political indoctrination is a significant component of the programs, which are aimed at ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, according to official notices. Along with vocational skills, the curriculum covers Mandarin Chinese, the importance of the Communist Party and national unity, Chinese law and how to counter extremism – such as not dressing too conservatively or praying too frequently. The programs can include military-like drills.”