Covid-19 situation beyond the city space: combating the various humanitarian crises prompted by the pandemic

Every phenomenon that is undergoing an altercation in the world right now, is under the devastating influence of Covid-19. The normal course of human life has been facing a stagnation for the past few months, dragging people towards numerous, unforeseen challenges of survival. Under such circumstances, the plight of underprivileged women and children, is often remaining unattended, to debate which and seek plausible solutions, the founder-secretary of Ebong Alap, Sarmistha Dutta Gupta, opened an online discussion to various social workers, health workers and government officials to share their inputs and experiences to help the society perceive the situation of these people, whose troubles it has been oblivious to. Nishantika Kundu reports on this webinar held on 25th September, 2020.

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Report on IMISCOE Workshop’s Keynote Address, “New Forms of Anti-Racist Mobilisation and Participatory Citizenship.”

On October 1st, 2020, the International Migration, Integration and Social Cohesion in Europe (IMISCOE) –the largest interdisciplinary research network of scholars in the field of migration, integration, and diversity studies in Europe –organized an inaugural virtual workshop, entitled, “ Regulating and Experiencing Immigrant Status Transition: Comparing Entry, Settlement, and Naturalization”. Fostering an intellectual discussion on issues of migration, citizenship and political participation, the IMISCOE workshop invites the audience to a month-long interdisciplinary series of insightful and engaging webinar presentations on such diverse topics as ranging from anti-racist movements, to rights and citizenship of migrants, to criminalization and classification of asylum seekers, made by scholars from across the world. The keynote, entitled, “New Forms of Anti-Racist Mobilisation and Participatory Citizenship” was delivered by Marco Martiniello, who is an eminent Italian-Belgian sociologist and political activist, and professor of sociology of migration and ethnic studies at the University of Liege, in Belgium. The session was moderated by Gianni D’Amato, who is the Director of the Swiss National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) on Migration and Population Studies, and professor of Migration and Citizenship Studies at the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Preeshita Biswas reports on the inaugural keynote session presented on October 1st, 2020.

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The Partition of Bengal and Its Silent Aftermath: An Interview with Rituparna Roy

Dr. Rituparna Roy is the Initiator of the Kolkata Partition Museum Project (KPMP) and the Managing Trustee of the KPM Trust. The KPM Project, as mentioned in its website, seeks to “memorialize in the most comprehensive way, the specificity of Bengal’s Partition history and its aftermath, to emphasize the continuities between West Bengal and Bangladesh… and to involve public participation in its programs.” In a telephone interview with Arna Dirghangi, she explains what inspired her to take up this extremely important project and where the future of this effort lies in the contemporary state of affairs.

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Report on “The Slow Poisoning of NREGA: How a Rural Lifeline can be stifled by a Technocratic Government”

As the surge of COVID cases in the country continues for months now, the employment opportunities in rural India have been steadily decreasing; following the return of a large section of migrant workers, the unorganized sector faces a severe humanitarian crisis with stifled scopes livelihood adding to the existing food insecurity. Since the imposition of this unplanned nationwide lockdown, the rural population had to fall back on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) that guarantees 100 days of wage employment to every household that ensures their ‘right to work’. For the 8th Jayanta Dasgupta Memorial Lecture, Calcutta Research Group (CRG) organized a discussion of the factors leading to the stifling of the act in the past six years, especially using technocratic aids to subvert certain provisions. The speaker for the session was Rajendran Narayanan, Assistant Professor at Azim Premji University and the moderator was Nasreen Chowdhory, Vice president of CRG. The talk focused on the central problems concerning the NREGA act, like wage payment delays, under-funding and infrastructural designs on the bureaucratic levels which is failing to create adequate assets to boost the rural economy. Nirajana Chakraborty reports.

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Report on “Covid-19 in South Asia: Regional Perspectives on Vulnerabilities and Dispossession”

While there has been a lot of discussion about how India has handled, and currently is handling the Covid-19 pandemic, it is also important to place it in the larger geographical context in South Asia to see how it has fared in comparison to its neighboring countries. It is also essential to understand how the neighboring countries themselves are handling the pandemic and how it has affected the lives of their citizens. Studying the experiences of the people in countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan, as well as the responses of the states – then becomes necessary to understand how the entire South Asian region has been battling the pandemic Covid-19, which specific experience is unique to each country and what they could learn from the other in terms of mistakes and precautions. The webinar organized by Calcutta Research Group in association with Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, South Asia, invited a diverse panel consisting of Amena Mohsin, Hari Sharma, Saqib Jafarey and Reza Hussaini for a dialogue. Sukanya Bhattacharya reports on the webinar organized on 24th August (from 6-8PM IST).

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STUDENT COLLECTIVES AS RELIEF MEDIATION TO THE PERILS OF NATURAL DISASTERS

‘The year is 2020. The tree in front of my house is bent on crashing upon the family car. It’s raining cats and dogs. Suddenly, there’s a blackout and there’s water seeping in from a broken window pane. The wind too isn’t very keen on slowing down either and seems to be turning stronger by the minute. My phone battery is on the verge of giving up. Much to my dismay; currently I am a resident of a 200 year old house, with no electricity and rain water for company. Built during the British era in Kolkata, this house with water leaks, steep wooden staircases and strong forces of wind is not exactly very pleasant at the moment. But my experiences at this moment cannot be read in isolation. They are marked by our present.’ Nayanika Kongar writes about the role student’ collectives can play in trying to mitigate the after effects of disasters.

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Artists’ Interpretation of the Great Divide and its aftermath -A Report

Kolkata Centre for Creativity (KCC), in collaboration with the Kolkata Partition Museum (KPM) Trust organized the webinar ‘Remembering the Partition in the shadow of 1947: Artists’ Interpretation of the Great Divide and its aftermath’ on 17th August, 2020 on the occasion of the Partition Remembrance Day. Arna Dirghangi reports on the discussions around the cultural and artistic significance of the Partition and its observation through different artistic lenses.

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Oxfam “didn’t want white faces to save refugees” in 1971: An Interview with Julian Francis

March 1971. Pakistani army launches “Operation Searchlight” to carry out a genocide of Bengalis from the erstwhile East Pakistan (present Bangladesh), resulting in a liberation war and a mammoth refugee crisis.  An estimated 10 million people from East Pakistan seek refuge in India.

Julian Francis, a 26 year-old employee of Oxfam, UK, was working on a Gandhian village development project in Bihar when the refugee influx started. The news of the grim condition of refugees reached his team in Bihar. Soon the then Oxfam’s Field Director for Eastern India and East Pakistan, Raymond Cournoyer, contacted his team and requested their assistance in Kolkata. Francis was given the charge of coordinating relief for refugees. He used to organize and handle the supplies of material. Oxfam worked with 600,000 East Bengali refugees according to his estimates. In an interview with Utsa Sarmin, Francis recalls the refugee crisis of 1971 and Oxfam’s role.

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