Covid-19 and Women Migrant Workers: The Situation of the Most Vulnerable

The Covid-19 pandemic and the unprecedented months-long lockdown that followed in India had a shocking impact on every sector – particularly health and economy, which forced lawmakers and the average citizen to see the hidden realities of the workers who are mostly invisible in terms of their social presence while their contributions are not. Migration and the workers who undertake them became important subjects of study as a clear distinction was drawn between those who work in the formal and informal sector. Sukanya Bhattacharya writes about the situation of women migrant workers during the pandemic.

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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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Report on the Webinar: ‘Migrants, Morality, Middle Class and Pandemic’ by Rakesh M. Krishnan

The current pandemic and the consequent travesty that the migrant labourers have had to face has generated an unprecedented response from Indian society. Most of the middle and upper class had come out on social media to contribute to the growing discussion about the plight of the labourers. However, most of these responses are short-lived, individual and singular in nature. The speaker Rakesh M. Krishnan put up a comparative picture where on one hand, middle class people share news articles about the labourer’s death and right after that, share pictures of some delicacy they have cooked along with the rest of their family in their protected homes. This dichotomy has existed for a long time in society but has probably become even more apparent in the present context. Hence, the narrative of ‘3Ms’ – migrants, morality and middle class in the backdrop of a pandemic that Krishnan builds is an important narrative which is bound to be uncomfortable but is also necessary. Sukanya Bhattacharya reports on the webinar organized by Christ University Trivandrum on 22nd June, 2020.

Continue reading “Report on the Webinar: ‘Migrants, Morality, Middle Class and Pandemic’ by Rakesh M. Krishnan”

Report on ‘CoVid-19 : Public Health and the Sudden Visibility of Migrant Workers’

Migrant laborers are not an anomaly in Indian society and almost everybody is aware of their existence and the work they do. However, it is the current socioeconomic and health crisis brought on by the pandemic Covid-19 which has amplified our focus on these otherwise ignored migrant laborers and the difficulties they have to face. Social media, news as well as public opinion has varied greatly on the issue but there seems to be a consensus on the fact that India probably saw a great many deaths of these laborers before an equal number of people died due to Covid-19. Due to the sudden lockdown of all transport systems, lack of information and a great amount of mismanagement on the part of the states as well as central authority – many of these laborers have had to undertake inter-state journeys on foot with all their belongings on their shoulders. This has been extensively captured and documented by the media which has then shaped public opinion. In such a context where these migrant laborers are suddenly under the spotlight, Ranabir Samaddar and Samita Sen spoke in a webinar titled ‘CoVid-19 : Public Health and the Sudden Visibility of Migrant Workers’, organized by CRG (as part of its webinar series #bordersofanepidemic). Sukanya Bhattacharya reports on the webinar organized on 12th June, 2020.

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Kitaiskii Bazar

Anita Sengupta

Almaty, situated in southern Kazakhstan, is close to the Chinese border. One of the most interesting places in the outskirts of the city is Barakholka, a large out-of-town bazar that lies to the north-west of Almaty, reputedly stretching for nearly five kilometers. Nestled in the foothills of the Tien Shan, it is a noisy, congested and chaotic maze of zigzagging aisles where thousands shop every day. The market, which stretches along-side a road leading out of town, is organised into sections, each named differently—“Europe,” “Evrazia” and so on. Barakholka is a rabbit warren of stalls (actually comprising several different bazars, each offering specific merchandise). Most of the bazar is outside, and trying to find a particular section is nearly impossible. One can spend hours turning corners and walking through long barn like buildings weaving through the crowds. The bazar sells literally everything that one would want to buy from clothes to food and toys, hardware to handicrafts. It is also a market where Uzbeks, Uighurs, and Dungans converge to sell products of Chinese make. Inside the labyrinths of shops and tents there are restaurants that reflect the ethnic diversity of the market. There are also always hawkers who walk through the narrow aisles selling tea, fruit and somsa, yelling alternately in Kazakh and Russian.

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“Bari Jabo Kobe?” : Plight of a homeless young Rohingya

Adrija Maitra

(Adrija is an intern at Mahanirban Calcutta research Group and can be reached at eshamaitra07@gmail.com)

“When will I go home?”* With a look of half uncertain hope and half despair, fourteen year old Safi Akhter just wanted me to answer this question. I had gone to meet her to document her personal narrative – the journey from her homeland Myanmar, where she was born, to the land where her parents currently live in, India. She has been living in India for a year now, although if given a chance, she would go home. (I interviewed her as a part of my ongoing research project on the Rohingyas, which aims to adopt a gendered lens on the Rohingya international crisis. Safi is the sole Rohingya girl in West Bengal at this moment, and thus, her narrative will add a first-hand dimension to my research undertaking.)

Safi belongs to the Rohingya community, a minority Muslim community who call the now Rakhine state of Myanmar their homeland. According to the Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO), “Muslim Arakanese or Rohingya are indigenous to Arakan. Having genealogical linkup with the people of Wesali or Vesali kingdom of Arakan, the Rohingya of today are a perfect example of its ancient inhabitants.” The golden age of the Muslim Arakanese culture came during the 15th century, under the Mrauk-U dynasty (1430-1784). The royal court patronized Arakanese literature, Muslim titles were adopted by the Mrauk-U kings, coins were minted in which was inscribed an Islamic declaration of faith, and also took inspiration from the dressing sense of the Persian rulers.

The Rakhines entered the Arakan kingdom around 10th century, although tensions between the Rakhines and Rohingyas emerged only after the British conquest of Arakan in 1825. Thousands of Bengalis, especially from Chittagong, migrated to Arakan to work in the British colonial plantations which boosted the imperial economy. The Rakhines bitterly resented this influx of “illegal Bengalis” taking away their jobs, and thus, in post-colonial Burma, the Rohingyas were discriminated against. Ethnically and culturally distinct than the Burmese, the latter viewed the Rohingyas as a remnant of their oppressive, exploitative, and colonial past. Therefore, the 1982 Burmese Citizenship Law recognized 135 ethnic groups in Myanmar, excluding the Rohingyas, rendering them stateless. Against such a historical-cultural-political backdrop, Safi experiences reality.

Safi has grown up in a village which she calls Harifara, in Myanmar, with her maternal grandmother (nani), a maternal uncle, and his daughter Zayida. Her parents moved to India when she was 4-5 years old, and listening to her childhood experiences it seemed that she hardly has any memories with her parents. There was but one trip that she had made to India with her parents, of which she couldn’t recount any particulars. She remembers playing with Zayida in their home in Myanmar, and spoke of her cousin with a smile. “Why did you leave Myanmar?” I asked her. “Because my parents are in India.”  Her countenance, almost within a fraction of a second, became grave and thoughtful. Continue reading ““Bari Jabo Kobe?” : Plight of a homeless young Rohingya”

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