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Sat12162017

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Invisible, exploited: Home-workers of Agra’s footwear industry

By Aakash Mehrotra

Agra turns out 250,000 pairs of shoes every day. Most of them are made by invisible home-workers at the bottom of the global supply chain, who earn as little as Rs 30 a pair

Informal sector employment in footwear industry

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The potential for transformation through MGNREGS

By Siraj Dutta

In Kuira, effective people’s planning and monitoring at the panchayat level has ensured the completion of several useful public works under MGNREGS, quick payment of wages, and a substantial fall in distress migration from the village

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme

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State, markets and civil society have failed migrant workers

India’s growth story rides on the distress migration of the poor and yet this large and growing segment of our population is completely overlooked, says Rajiv Khandelwal, founder of Aajeevika Bureau. In this interview Khandelwal suggests a possible course of civil society action and state policy for migrant workers

Aajeevika Bureau

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Island women find freedom from four walls

By Candace Rose Rardon

In Mahinsa, an island village on Orissa’s Chilika Lake, new collective livelihood and self-help groups have helped women begin cultivating crabs for export, supplementing family incomes and giving the women a sense of ownership and purpose

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Duped and exploited: Orissa's migrant workers

By Sudarshan Chhotray

Close to 2 million people migrate out of Orissa in search of work every year. Only 50,000 of them are registered with the authorities, making it difficult to protect these desperate migrants from tricksters and exploitative employers

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Trafficking is big business along the Indo-Bangladesh border

By Usha Rai

Prostitution has become a booming business on the 151-km India-Bangladesh border. Many of the women, abandoned by husbands or trafficked across the porous border, have entered the trade and continue in it because it provides a steady income. Clearly, the challenge is rehabilitation, not rescue

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Papamma's victory marks a milestone in the domestic workers' struggle

By Anuja Mirchandaney

Papamma, a domestic worker in Bangalore, took her employers to court and managed to receive a favourable judgment. This is a historic victory for perhaps the most vulnerable segment of unorganised workers, made possible by the support of a trade union, a dedicated team of advocates and a labour officer who adjudicated objectively

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Transferring 26% of mining profits to local populations

The Indian government is thinking about giving local people a stake in the resources mined from their area by offering them 26% equity or payout of profits. But will government implement profit-sharing any more effectively than it implements the rehabilitation of the displaced?

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Hope for domestic workers?

By Kathyayini Chamaraj

Karnataka was the first to notify minimum wages and working conditions for domestic labour. But in the six years since, not a single complaint about non-payment of minimum wages has been filed. A recent public hearing in Bangalore proposed several other measures to ensure that domestic workers are not exploited

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Yellow metal blues

By Ritusmita Biswas

Despite being employed in the glamorous billion-dollar gold industry, India’s gold jewellery workers work long hours in inhuman conditions and are barely able to make ends meet. Indeed, many gold workers in Kolkata have left their trade in disgust to become rickshaw-pullers and vegetable vendors. Is this the end of the road for this traditional craft?

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Beedi-rollers of Biharsharif: 'The living dead'

By Aditya Malaviya

Beedi workers are listed in the schedules of the Minimum Wages Act 1948, which do not list most other home-based activities. They are also entitled to health insurance, maternity benefits and housing assistance. Why then are beedi workers so desperately poor, with no access to these benefits?

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Chhattisgarh: Lost battle

The people of Chhattisgarh appear to have lost the battle against industrialisation without rules. Even those who held out longest against the acquisition of their lands, forests and rivers are giving up the fight. Dilnaz Boga travels through the villages of Raigarh district, where thousands are being displaced

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"Are projects for people, or people for projects?"

By Kathyayini Chamaraj

A public hearing on the Mangalore Special Economic Zone revealed how rules were flouted and records fudged, compensation was not paid and promised jobs never materialised, and how land and groundwater were polluted

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The 'servant' is also a worker

By Shreya Bhattacharya

Domestic placement agencies are mushrooming everywhere. A substantial number of domestic workers are trafficked from poor states like West Bengal, Orissa and Jharkhand. But there is no national legislation to protect the rights and ensure the welfare of this huge army of domestic workers

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Winning the cashew battle in Orissa

By Pradeep Baisakh

To avoid siltation of the newly constructed dams caused by traditional forms of agriculture, the tribals of the Koraput district of Orissa were persuaded to shift to cultivation of cashew and other trees and promised ownership of the land. But when the government reneged on its promise and started reaping the benefits itself, a people’s movement began that has just ended in victory after 10 long years

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Victory for Tamil Nadu's manual scavengers

By Mari Marcel Thekaekara

Acting on a PIL by a public-spirited citizen, the Tamil Nadu Hight Court has censured the state government for violation of the Eradication of Manual Scavenging & Dry Latrine (Abolition) Act 1993, and for contravening the law by employing manual scavengers in its own civic bodies

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Coastal notification out, fresh rules likely for fishworkers

By Anosh Malekar

The Ministry of Environment and Forests has agreed to drop the proposal to replace the current Coastal Regulation Zone notification with a controversial Coastal Management Zone notification. Minister Jairam Ramesh conveyed this to a delegation of the National Fishworkers Forum that met him in Delhi recently

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Industry and communities clash in Jharkhand

By Moushumi Basu

Jharkhand went on an MoU-signing spree with industry a few years ago. Now these industries are on the back foot, facing strong opposition from local adivasis. Adivasis are not beggars, they say, rejecting the state R&R policy which requires corporations to give 1% of their annual profits to adivasi landowners whose lands have been acquired

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Breach of land laws in Jharkhand

By Gladson Dungdung

45 adivasi families were duped into selling their lands near Bokaro, Jharkhand, lured by promises of jobs in a garment factory that was never built. This is only one of thousands of cases of adivasi land alienation in Jharkhand, 100 years after the Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act prohibited transfer of adivasi lands to non-adivasis

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Creating the common wealth?

By Sujata Madhok

A survey of 450 construction worker households across 15 construction sites in Delhi and its surrounds - many of them building infrastructure for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, on which the Delhi government plans to spend Rs 7,000 crore -- reveals a squalid tale of poverty, exploitation and ill health

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No pattas, no rights

By Aditya Malaviya

Everywhere you go in Ganjam district of Orissa you meet people displaced from lands they had farmed for generations. With no land records in their possession they were displaced for development projects or forest protection. Decades later they continue to survive on forest produce, fishing and wage labour, battling the forest department every inch of the way

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'Our old life is lost, the new one never materialised'

By Aparna Pallavi

The process of relocation for Ban Gujjars living inside the Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand began in 1998 when around 1,213 families were moved to Pathri and Gaindikhatta. Ten years on, the buffalo herders have lost most of their livestock and with it their traditional livelihoods and customs

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Granite industry blues

By Bobby Kunhu

The granite industry in Rajasthan has been growing at 50% annually. But this growth has serious social and environmental costs. For one, water sources are being depleted, forcing farmers to become labourers in the granite industry

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Love's labour lost

By Bobby Kunhu

The luminescent marble of the Taj Mahal is said to have come from Makhrana, a quaint mining town in the state of Rajasthan. But though Makhrana marble can compete with the best in the world, the region is an ecological and economic disaster, thanks to the Rajasthan government's misguided mining policies

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Buying land from the rich to distribute to the poor

By Aditya Malaviya

Krishnammal and Sankaralingam Jagannathan's years of working for land and livelihood rights for the poor in Tamil Nadu has won them the 2008 Right Livelihood Prize, also known the Alternative Nobel. The Stockholm-based Foundation says the award is recognition "for two long lifetimes of work dedicated to realising in practice the Gandhian vision of social justice and sustainable human development"

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How the adivasi became a bonded labourer

By Aditya Malaviya

This is the story of Khaliya Sabar who once lived happily in the forest village of Kiribiri in Ganjam district, Orissa. And of what happened to him and 300 other families when they were evicted from the village by forest rangers

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Letter from Dhaka: A fishing tale

Bangladeshi fishermen have fished in the country's huge inland waterbodies for generations. How, in just a decade, did they come to be denied the right to fish? How and why did entire villages, their way of life, their culture, their livelihoods, crumble? Khademul Islam describes the battle over water rights

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Red-chilli magic

By Aditya Malaviya

Self-help groups in Betul district, Madhya Pradesh have a new confidence as they augment their agricultural income with small business practices such as trading in red chillies and making rooftiles

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Migrate - or starve

By Aditya Malaviya and Sushmita Malaviya

Tikamgarh, in Madhya Pradesh, has been experiencing its third successive year of drought. Migration and contract labour is the only option. These are stories of families torn apart by forced migration, deserted villages, hunger, lonely children and helpless old folk

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Losing the sand beneath their feet

By Aditya Malaviya

The black sand of Kollam district in coastal Kerala is classified as 'strategic' because it contains minerals for atomic energy and defence applications. Therefore, indiscriminate mining of the sand can continue, regardless of damage to the ecosystem and the livelihoods of people

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Trafficking women for domestic work

By Sujata Madhok

Many 'employment agencies' that are springing up in cities to place migrant women for domestic work are little more than traffickers. The condition in which these women work violates several laws including the Bonded Labour Act and in many cases the Child Labour and Juvenile Justice Act. Activists are calling for a specific law to regulate the domestic work sector

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The original migrants

The first migrations from Bihar date back to 1834. Every second family in the state today is sustained by migrants. But even as Patna feted the visit of the Mauritius PM, a Bihari by origin, thousands of Biharis were returning from Maharashtra following attacks upon them. Anosh Malekar travelled with them

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Released from bondage

By Aditya Malaviya

Nearly 5,000 Tamilian bonded labour families released from granite and marble quarries in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh by the Supreme Court of India have settled in 20 villages in Perambalur district, Tamil Nadu. They are trying to begin a new life, free from the exploitative shackles of contractors

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Corruption and patronage mark NREGS implementation in Bihar

By Juhi Tyagi

A survey of the NREGA by AMAN Trust in Jehanabad and Arwal districts of Bihar reveals that 50% of eligible households do not have access to the benefits of the scheme. Awareness of the scheme is low, only 16.5% of the beneficiaries are women, and caste/class hierarchies dominate

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A lot more boats but very little fish

By Mari Marcel Thekaekara

Three years after the tsunami there are a lot more boats in areas affected by the disaster. But yields are low and there's a new fear of the sea

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Unworkable guarantee

By Chitrangada Choudhury

Police 'rescues' are stopping thousands of farmers from fleeing western Orissa's bullock-cart economy to power the construction boom of New India. The alternative -- a grand prime ministerial job scheme to counter the annual march of this ragged army -- isn't working

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Kerala's landless dalits battle for Chengara

By P N Venugopal

In yet another confrontation with industry, hundreds of landless families - principally dalits and adivasis -- have occupied the Harrison Malayalam rubber plantation in Kerala. Claiming that the company's land lease has long expired, they are demanding 5 acres of land and Rs 50,000 for each family. A special report from the new battleground of Chengara

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Arkhakuda: Profile of poverty in Chilika

By Aditya Malaviya

Declining productivity in Chilika Lake, Orissa, has severely affected the livelihoods of this fishing community. Worst-affected are the widows of Arkhakuda, whose lives focus on the hunt for one square meal a day

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March to victory

By Jonathan Weedon

There was jubilation among the Janadesh marchers as the government announced the setting up of a land reforms committee and fast-track courts at the state level. True, the history of land reform in India is littered with broken promises and failed legislation, but Janadesh has brought land reforms for the poorest back onto the national agenda

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Janadesh: Marathon march

By Jonathan Weedon

This is a march on a breathtaking scale -- 25,000 people marching 320 km from Gwalior to Delhi, on one meal a day, sleeping in the open. These are people deprived of their land by powerful landlords, displaced by industrial projects with little or no compensation, denied access to traditional sources of livelihood. Jonathan Weedon is marching with them

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Orissa's tribals: Give us only what's rightfully ours

By Ranjan K Panda

Tribals living near the Badrama Wildlife Sanctuary in Orissa step up their demand for rights over natural resources, in keeping with the new Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest-Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006

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Getting to know her land, the hard way

By Aparna Pallavi

The widows of farmers who have committed suicide in Vidarbha struggle to keep their farms running. For them too, it could be a losing battle

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'Creative and cultural industries have the largest growth potential'

By Rashme Sehgal

With around 250 million artists and craftspersons, India is crying out for a large-scale repositioning and transformation of traditional skills for the global market. Rajeev Sethi, long-time supporter of the crafts sector, discusses his plans to do this by setting up a National Mission on India's creative industries

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Delhi's graveyard of rickshaws

By Madhu Gurung

Liberalisation works in strange ways: There is no cap on the amount of polluting motorised vehicles that can be added to Delhi's roads. But there is a quota for eco-friendly rickshaws in the city. As a result, thousands of poor rickshaw-pullers are caught in a cycle of extortion, exploitation and poverty

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Chilika: A contested space

By Sarmistha Pattanaik

As the dispute over Chilika's aquatic resources continues, violent conflicts are erupting between fishermen and non-fishermen, authorised and unauthorised shrimp culturists, and locals and outsiders

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Two crore trees and the livelihood of thousands are at stake

By Kanchi Kohli

The Chhattisgarh Forest Development Corporation is to fell millions of trees in three districts of the state. Villagers claim that natural forests are being cleared to make way for commercial plantations. These forests are their lifeline

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Endogenous tourism opens up innovative livelihood options for rural communities

By Freny Manecksha

Shaam-E-Sarhad, at the edge of the Gujarat desert, is an endogenous tourism project promoted by the UNDP and tourism ministry. Run by the Hodka community, the project aims to open up innovative livelihood opportunities for low-income rural communities and promote sustainable tourism

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Orissa's Sambalpuri weavers: From boom to bust

By Ranjan K Panda

After enjoying several years of prosperity and success, the weavers of Orissa's famous Sambalpuri sari (former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's favourite attire) have fallen on hard times. Government apathy and the closure of cooperatives that ensured the weavers stability and a good price have forced many weavers into seeking a living pulling rickshaws or working as farm labour

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Penalising clients of sex workers: Pros and cons

By Nitin Jugran Bahuguna

Will the amendments to the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act proposed by the government protect sex workers from exploitation at the hand of clients and police, or will it end up making them more vulnerable?

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Is it the end of the road for Mirzapur's famed carpet weavers?

By Rashme Sehgal

Our correspondent finds the master carpet weavers of Mirzapur are sitting along the roadside selling onions and potatoes. Younger weavers are forced to ply rickshaws or work as daily labourers. With fierce international competition and the withdrawal of state support, Mirzapur-Bhadohi's famous carpet weaving industry is quickly dying

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Jharkhand's beasts of burden

By Anosh Malekar

A few thousand haggard men from the Chutu Palu Ghati survive by pushing bicycles laden with 300 kg of 'waste' coal up the Ranchi-Patna highway. It is backbreaking work, paying them a pittance, but it's the only form of livelihood available for three-quarters of the year when there's no farming to be done

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JPL power plant: Riding roughshod over people's concerns

By Kanchi Kohli

Protests against the 1,000 MW thermal power plant in Tamnar village, Chhattisgarh, continue, even as the mandatory public hearing that is part of the environment clearance procedure turned out to be a sham. The proposed dam and the diversion of the river will submerge lands, and seriously impact the livelihoods of local communities

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Dancers in the dark

By Freny Manecksha

As three bar dancers commit suicide in Mumbai following the ban on dance bars in Maharashtra, an SNDT study busts several myths about the working conditions, backgrounds and lifestyles of these

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'The poor are the worst victims of statist control'

By Rashme Sehgal

The laws governing livelihoods in India make it impossible to pursue a legitimate occupation without being terrorised or fleeced by some government agency or the other. Liberalisation has failed to create an enabling environment for 90% of the country's workforce that operate in the informal sector, says Madhu Kishwar

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Moving fishermen off their lands: Safety considerations or dispossession?

By Krithika Ramalingam

Fishermen in some tsunami-affected regions in south India are allegedly being forced to sign documents stating that they are relinquishing their land. If they don't, they are denied government relief material. The move is ostensibly aimed at shifting them out of the danger zone and further inland

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Mining for change at the Jethwai cooperative

By Vikas Yadav

Thanks to the formation of a cooperative, miners in Jethwai village in Rajasthan can now expect a fair wage for the backbreaking work they do. The Mine Labour's Protection Campaign (MLPC), a Jodhpur-based group of activists, has set up 10 such cooperatives throughout the state to improve the lives of Rajasthan's 30-lakh-odd mine workers

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Eliminating the middleman in Bastar's Rs 1,000 crore NTFP trade

By Vikas Yadav

The Bajawand Primary Forest Produce Cooperative Society, in Chhattisgarh's Bastar district, is a model for other cooperatives. Spearheaded by an illiterate tribal woman, Kalawati, the PFPCS has witnessed greater women's participation and bypassed corrupt middlemen

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No boats and nets: The livelihoods crisis

By Max Martin

45,920 boats have been lost or damaged in the tsunami in Tamil Nadu, India. The replacement of boats and nets and the restoration of their livelihoods is uppermost in fishermen's minds. But each boat could cost between Rs 10,000-80,000. A special report on the priorities of rehabilitation from Cuddalore district

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Adrift on the Brahmaputra

By Kirti Mishra

The crisis of livelihood in flood-affected Assam has reduced former landowners to illegal foragers of driftwood from the river

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Play fair at the Olympics

By Laxmi Murthy

As athletes perform swifter, higher and stronger at the Athens Olympics, millions of sweatshop workers have been working faster, longer and cheaper to make the fashionable sportswear. International coalitions are working to draw attention to the exploitation of these workers. In India, an alternative Olympic torch was carried from Tirupur to Ludhiana and other major Indian garment-producing centres

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Mithila's women paint their way out of poverty

By Naren Karunakaran

The Bharati Vikas Manch, in Bihar's Barheta village, has been instrumental in teaching poor village women the famous Mithila genre of painting. The skill has helped transform lives and ward off poverty in many backward villages in the state

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Voices of women in prostitution

By Lalitha Sridhar

Women of the SANGRAM collective for women in prostitution in Sangli meet regularly to discuss issues and problems. All have stories to tell about their lives and their profession

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Kottans for posterity

By Lalitha Sridhar

Tamil Nadu's almost-extinct traditional basket-weaving craft survives and thrives again

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Bangalore's contract municipal cleaners battle for minimum wages

By Laxmi Murthy

Despite a Karnataka High Court order, that contract municipal cleaners in Bangalore be given the minimum wage of Rs 1,800 per month, corrupt contractors and Bangalore Mahanagara Palike officials continue to flout the laws

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Beedi workers in Chhattisgarh continue to be exploited

By Sandip Das

In Chhattisgarh's beedi-producing belt, more than 50,000 families work in the multi-crore beedi industry. Despite the laws that govern this industry, the beedi workers are paid much less than the minimum wage, have no benefits and are constantly at risk of respiratory diseases

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Scrap-collectors fight for and win a new legitimacy

By Sheba Tejani

The scrap-collectors union of Pune in Maharashtra has given waste-collectors who scoured garbage bins and collected old newspapers and bottles a new respectability and access. The municipal corporation now issues identity cards to them and offers a limited health insurance plan, recognising their contribution to recycling waste in the city

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Despatches from Choutuppal, where handloom weaver Shankariah committed suicide

By Safia Sircar

Choutuppal looks fairly prosperous, with a myriad ISD and Internet kiosks. But in this and other centres of the handloom industry in Andhra Pradesh, around 400 weavers, struggling to make a living, are estimated to have killed themselves in a single year. What is going wrong? A first-hand report by Safia Sircar

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Women workers demand visibility and a voice

By Laxmi Murthy

On March 8, 1908, women workers in the needle trade in New York marched in the streets, demanding suffrage and an end to sweatshops and child labour. Almost 100 years on, over 100,000 workers took to the streets of New Delhi this February, to register their protest against the government's anti-worker policies and the severe impact of liberalisation on women workers

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Summer of '99: The turning-point for Bastar's tribals

By Kumkum Dasgupta

With help from the district administration Bastar's tribals have eliminated the middlemen and taken direct control of trade in minor forest produce. The change in their villages since the Imli Andolan of 1999 is perceptible

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Why 9 million fisherfolk are burdened by debt

By Alka Arya

Six members of the fishing community in Udipi, Karnataka, committed suicide because they couldn't repay their debts. Two of them were women. What has gone wrong with this oldest of livelihood systems?

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Shabana:'I have the right to sell my body - and I will sell it'

By Atul Tiwari

What does it mean to be a woman in prostitution? What does it mean to sell sex? In a first-person excerpt from 'Unzipped: Women and Men in Prostitution Speak Out', recently published by Point of View, Mumbai, the feisty Shabana, who works the highways on the Karnataka-Maharashtra border, but also distributes condoms in collaboration with two voluntary agencies, opens up to the reader her world of exploitation, survival, empowerment, victimhood and choice.

The testimonies of the men and women who speak out in 'Unzipped' chip away at the myth that those in prostitution are eternal victims -- with no power to deal with the situations in which they find themselves. They also tell us that it is not just poverty that forces women into prostitution, but poverty acting in concert with gender. Until we stop marrying young girls off, until we stop burning, harassing and discriminating against young girls in ways big and small, the family will not be a safe place for young girls. The family will be a place to run away from...into the arms of a pimp, a shyster, or even a distant relative who is a gateway to prostitution.

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The beedi-rolling robots

By D S Shamantha

Despite being identified as a hazardous occupation, beedi-rolling remains extremely popular in India especially amongst women. But, hour after hour of rolling beedis (a big revenue earner for our country) takes a huge toll on the health of the beedi workers, many of whom live in unspeakable poverty

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