Stories signal, in the words of the anthropologists Kalyanakrishnan Sivaramakrishnan and Arun Agarwal, a ‘montage of patchy and sometimes disjunctive experiences’. In focusing on stories, ethnographers can devote attention to the unpredictable accounts that their interlocutors offer. In this vein, Lives on the Move presents the stories that circular labour migrants and their families, neighbours and friends tell about themselves and the people with whom they live, love and labour.
Circular labour migrants
Lives on the Move brings to you the perspectives of three circular labour migrants, their families and friends, neighbours, and co-workers. The three workers at the centre of this research, each of whom male, are each 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.
Shailendra Rishi, 28, is one of the estimated 52 million people who find employment in India’s US$ 157 million construction sector. His family owns less than one acre of agricultural land. He and his brothers build gurdwaras (Sikh temples) in Punjab, moving between its many towns and villages as they do so. Other members of his family work in the neighbouring State of Jammu and Kashmir. Shailendra is from the Rishideo community, a community that continues to be stigmatised by others as ‘untouchable’.
(May 2016 - April 2017)
21 year-old Rachit Yadav is among the 112 million people employed in what is officially categorised as India’s ‘services’ sector. Rachit has been employed as a driver by the owner of a flour mill in Punjab’s Ludhiana city for three years. His brother works in the construction sector in Delhi.. Rachit’s family owns 0.3 acres of land. He is from the Yadav community, disparaged as ‘low caste’ by others.
(July 2016 - April 2017
Gyanesh Mandal is among the 49 million people employed in India’s dwindling manufacturing sector. Gyanesh’s family owns about a tenth of an acre for agricultural purpose. His father, Shyamdev Mandal, recently raised a loan to set up a small shop in the village to sell household items to neighbours. Gyanesh works at a footwear factory in Kerala State. He is 19 and from the Kevat community, scorned by others as ‘low caste’.