Migration Narratives: The SHRAM Blog

Migrating towards freedom: Debadutta Club

It is well-established fact that migrant labour is associated with informal sector, working in unrecognized units without any social safety net. Including in the definition of organized sector those units employing 20 workers and more, 85 percent of total labour force would be categorized informal. Although we have the Unorganized Workers Social Security Act (UWSSA) 2008, no comprehensive scheme has been implemented yet. This account represented here highlights the hazards and hardships of a migrant labour, which forms a major portion of the informal sector labour force.

Tapanath Sahu has come a long way to become the field co-ordinator at Debadutta Club. His riveting tale delves beyond than what is reported and researched. At the age of sixteen years, the young lad left school and ran away to Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh, along with some friends in search for a job. Possessing scant knowledge, very minimal education and plenty of courage, he struggled there as casual in carpet factory.

The carpet weaving industry of Mirzapur and Bhadoi in Uttar Pradesh were infamous for employing child labour in carpet manufacturing. Widespread campaign against such employment has seen the weaving units disappear, working under disguise and hidden from public eye. Children from neighbouring states of Bihar and Odisha continue to supply child labourers for these units. Tapanath was one of them to migrate from Bargarh district of Odisha. Initially, he worked without any pay as a trainee and later, as daily labourer with 50 INR per day wage.

Exploitation by the factory owners is rampant and underreported. According to field reports, there are 10 lakh weavers operating in both in the carpet and textile weaving industries. Almost half the number employed could well be young and teenaged kids. As a child labourer, he was inflicted to severe working conditions and torture. After managing an escape from there, Tapanath worked for further ten years in another carpet manufacturing unit before returning home to engage in agricultural work. And one day he came in contact with us (Debadutta Club). Starting off as a volunteer, he showed keen interest in the project of our organization based on Migrant labourers. He was incorporated as field coordinator in 2011. From then onwards, the young individual has played an important part, spreading awareness on safe migration, relating his experiences to other potential migrant workers. His first hand narration gives a glimpse to other migrants as to how dire situations can arise at the destination work place. People like Tapanath show the way forward for others, knowing that migration is inevitable; the task is ensure their journey is safe and secure.

Aritra Chakrabarty

Aritra Chakrabarty

Anchor, SHRAM (Till Dec 31st, 2014)

As a social researcher, I believe in knowledge-based policy action. With a postgraduate degree in Development Studies, I've been associated with social issues in my professional space. As a part of SHRAMIC initiative, was involved with data creation, sourcing of resources that will become the knowledge bank of this project.
Aritra Chakrabarty

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