lives on the move

 

‘Lives on the move’ invites you to reflect on the ambivalences and ambiguities that attend to contemporary processes of modernity, growth and democracy. Join us as we embark on our fascinating journeys with circular labour migrants, their families and communities over the next one year.

Join us as we embark on our fascinating journeys with circular labour migrants, their families and communities over the next one year. We accompany individuals with homes in India’s villages and small towns as they make their way through different locations in the country in search of dignified livelihoods.

 

This project has been supported by the Economic and Social Research Council and the International Growth Centre. It is based at the University of Oxford's Department of International Development. Dr. Indrajit Roy is the Principal Investigator

 

 
 
 

Circular labour migrants

Lives on the Move brings to you the lives, loves and labours of three circular labour migrants, their families, neighbours and co-workers. The broader study project, titled ‘Fragmented Transitions’, situates their experiences and practices within wider processes of mobility, growth and democracy which mark the continuities and changes shaping the contemporary world. The project particularly explores the role of economic sectors in shaping politics: do the sectors in which people work influence their political practices, ideas and identities?

To that end, the project researches the political practices of people employed in different sectors of a high-growth, economically diverse, socially heterogeneous and electoral democracy: India. In recent years, India’s economy has registered phenomenal rates of growth, albeit almost all of it propelled by the services sector and a boom in construction

The three circular migrant workers at the centre of this research, each of whom male, are employed in different sectors of the Indian economy, and often work in more than one sector. They originate from a single village in the eastern Indian State of Bihar but are each affiliated with distinct social groups. Along with members of their families, neighbourhoods and work places, they have agreed to share their time and perspectives with us, for which we are extremely grateful.

Construction

Shailendra Rishi

Shailendra Rishi, 28, is one of the estimated 52 million people who find employment in India’s US$ 157 million construction sector. The construction sector contributes 7.7% of India’s Gross Domestic Product and absorbs 11.3% of its total labour force. Shailendra’s family owns less than one acre of agricultural land. They lease a further 0.8 acres from a farmer in their village, who also doubles as a labour contractor. Occasionally, they labour on other farmers’ fields to supplement their incomes. Shailendra and his brothers build gurdwaras  (Sikh temples) in Punjab, moving between its many towns and villages as they do so. He is from the Rishideo community, a community that continues to be stigmatised by social elites as ‘untouchable’.

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Services

Rachit Yadav

21-year-old Rachit Yadav is among the 112 million people employed in what is officially categorised as India’s ‘services’ sector. At 53% of its Gross Domestic Product, the amorphous services sector absorbs 24.4% of India’s labour force. Rachit has been employed as a driver by the owner of a flour mill in Punjab’s Ludhiana city for three years. When he is not driving his employer’s car, Rachit operates machinery, loads and unloads bags of flour, and even supervises the other workers in the mill. Rachit’s family owns 0.3 hectares of land, but are embroiled in a dispute over that property with their cousins. Rachit is from the Yadav community, disparaged by social elites as ‘low caste’.

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Manufacturing

Gyanesh Mandal

Gyanesh Mandal is among the 49 million people employed in India’s dwindling manufacturing sector. Manufacturing absorbs 10.5% of the country’s labour force and produces 15.3% of its Gross Domestic Product. Gyanesh’s family owns about a tenth of an acre  for agricultural purpose. His father recently raised a loan to set up a small shop in the village to sell household items to neighbours. He works at a footwear factory in Kerala State. Although his father wanted him to stay in the village and help at home, Gyanesh decided to accompany his uncle when the latter went to Kerala for work. Gyanesh is 19 and from the Kevat community, scorned by social elites as ‘low caste’.

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