Indians Have Masked Their Women And Labour

Nitish Kumar. Photo copyright Greater Voice.
Women at an election rally in Bihar. Photo: Greater Voice

India is ‘rising’; it was ‘shining’ some time before, and ‘marching to progress’ everyday. Now consider another side of the story – We The People are masking the plight of at least two of our most vital ‘class’ of citizens – Labour and Women.

In this rising country where food grain rots while hunger remains unabated – In this shining country where majority voters live in darkness – In this progressive country where Internet is available to mere 10 per cent of the billion plus population … there is an euphoria that India will soon be a Super Power.

Alas! How will you attest your preeminence by continuing to disregard the lowly-paid labour class and denying one and the same rights to the women? Today, the Indian women and the Indian workers are under tremendous suffering – quite distressfully observable.

Let every woman smile like this, Madam.

On the one hand while even the Indian capital city Delhi is day-by-day getting riskier for women, a worker blowing the whistle is left to battle for years which ultimately turns out to be a very-very long drawn unequal fight to almost unachievable justice.

Having become mechanical slaves to EMIs (Equated Monthly Instalment) in the race to lead better lives, the people prefer keeping their eyes shut to what all they see both in their homes and offices. Those at the receiving end are then isolated and left to fight lonely battles until they survive. The fact that the Indian laws are very strict as compared to any other country fails to lift any spirit.

Today’s molesters walk free tomorrow. Labour law violators mature into Hitlers tomorrow. Maybe the stories of freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh are taught only to frighten the Indians – look you too will be hanged, like him; mind your business.

Social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Syed Ahmed Ali Khan have no followers as the Indians dance to the new item song one-after-another. Mass awakening for enforcement of labour laws is missing. To add salt to the wounds, a growing number of workers and women are turning a blind eye to every which problem, giving up every cause and are feeling lost. They are 21st century India’s languishing stoics.

Hardly there is any part of India which is not going the same way – Kashmir is cliché, Guwahati is the rage. The worst to mention is that we have some top women leaders – one of them Pratibha Devisingh Patil just retired as President – as also a Parliament where the existing labour laws are increasingly being seen as deterrent to foreign investment.

Ironically, we revere motherhood, we worship female deities and even fall at the feet of leaders like Sonia Gandhi, Mayawati, Jayalalitha, Mamata Banerjee and Sheila Dixit; and we also have several full-fledged labour legislations.

But when it comes to marriage, some are forced while some are disciplined by way of honour killings. Forget foeticide and trafficking that are discussed only briefly when we have a star anchoring a television show ‘Satyamev Jayate’. And when there’s a trade union situation in a company, we join the chorus to blame the workers –– terming them militants.

Sexual assault, domestic violence, incest, teasing are so common. So frequent are firing at the jobs where there’s no appointment letters, no terms and conditions governing the employment. Talk to anyone and you get unending untold horror stories.

Injustices against women are widespread and a way of life. And if a worker ever raises his voice he is taught a lesson so that others also remember. If I were to speak at length, I would not stop pointing out incidents which may lead one to believe as to how dangerous India is vis-à-vis treatment being meted to the women and its labour class.

Such scenes of a husband and wife working at a construction site with their children is a common site in India. It is here that the kids start working early as child labour. Photo by C. Rahul in New Delhi.
Such scenes of a husband & wife working at a construction site with their children is a common site in India. It is here that the kids start working early as child labour. Photo by C. Rahul in New Delhi.

All this despite India witnessing an impressive record of women reaching the highest political echelons! All this despite the blood and sweat of over-worked workers behind every success stories!

Had it not been in the mindset of the people, they would have been equally cheering and joining the ranks of Irom Chanu Sharmila – a woman fasting for over a decade – along with the newly discovered Gandhi – Anna Hazare, who has been arresting the government on the issue of corruption.

As an Indian, I sing my national anthem. I salute my tri-colour. My nationalism is no less than any other citizen. But I am feeling wounded. My country is today an investment destination. And I fear the conditions of the Indian women and the labour would further deteriorate in the days to come.

My police still give looks to the women, Adavasi resistance is branded terrorist activities, True representatives of workers are facing false, fabricated criminal charges and are being dismissed on trumped up allegations.

O God! media reporting on these issues are now a lazy activity if not totally myopic. Must we accept we have become blinds while creating a brand image for our country so much so that we have masked our women and labour force.

Let’s unmask them. Lifting a filth-covered child during elections and dining with a deprived woman should be rather seen as a shock value. Rise O Countrymen!





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