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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Report on the webinar: “Covid 19 and Migrant Labour: Laws, Policies, Practices”

The pandemic Covid-19 in India is not a new issue, but its impacts are still being felt all over the country – by all classes, professions and genders. The central government and state governments have tried to deal with the pandemic by creating new laws and policies – but it is debatable how much of it is yielding positive results and if those laws and policies are being practised in the first place. Apart from the pandemic, there have been developments which have made the political atmosphere of the country tense as there have been arrests and interrogations of activists. Almost every Indian has reflected on the police and their actions at time when majority of the people are at their most vulnerable. The Supreme Court’s role amidst all of this has been also been debated. In such a context, scholar Kalpana Kannabiran and journalist Bharat Bhushan engaged in an important discussion about these questions with K.M. Parivelan moderating the session. Sukanya Bhattacharya reports on the webinar organized on 30th July.

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‘A long road with no turning back’- One Day International Teachers’ Workshop on Forced Migration: Humanity at the Crossroads

The departments of History and Political Science, Sivanath Shastri College (SSC), in collaboration with the Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group (MCRG) conducted a One-Day International Teachers’ workshop titled Forced Migration: Humanity at the Crossroads on the 9th of July, 2020. Arna Dirghani reports.

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A brief note on Floods and Erosion in Assam: Problems without Prospects

In Assam, for those who perhaps do not directly suffer, floods and erosion are an annual affair that come and leave with the monsoon. Every coming year is equally or more devastating than the earlier one. Mridugunjan Deka makes a case on the seriousness of the issue, using publicly available and accessible government data sources. 

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