People on the Move (draft)
The perspectives offered by our interlocutors are embedded in their social practices. Lives on the Move not only reports what our interlocutors tell us but also brings to life what they do. On this page, you can see for yourselves the spectacular and the banal, the drudgeries and the jubilations, and the sorrows and joys that constitute the lives of the people who move as well as those who stay.
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’.
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’.
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’.