Why lakhs of people leave Odisha to work in distant, unsafe brick-kilns

A small railway station with shanties on either side. A main street running the length of the town, selling everything from household provisions to construction materials. A semi-finished temple, a few lodges and bars, and as the town ends, a series of truck-repair shops.

The tiny town of Kantabanji in western Odisha’s Bolangir district looks unremarkable in the summer.

But come November and it whirrs to life as people arrive from the nearby countryside after harvesting the year’s sole rainfed crop. With no work in the villages for the next few months, they come to the town with their meagre belongings to catch trains to Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, where they would spend the next five or six months working in brick-kilns.

During those weeks in November, the town becomes the largest migrant labour market in western Odisha. Its guesthouses and hotels fill up as brick kiln owners called “seths” come to recruit workers, with the help of local labour contractors called “sardars”. Two trains heading to Visakhapatnam – the Korba-VSKP Link Express and  the Durg-VSKP Passenger – extend their halts to make sure all the workers enter (or are loaded into) the unreserved compartments.

the persistence of this trade, despite the migrants knowing the harsh conditions which await them at the kilns, is perplexing. in this story, Scroll’s #eartotheground series tries to find answers.

Why it is premature to exult over Lal Thanzara’s resignation

Last Monday, when allegations of conflict of interest forced Mizoram minister Lal Thanzara to resign from the state cabinet and assembly, there was much excitement in the state. However, the excitement might prove short-lived as the minister could return to the cabinet soon, making this yet another case that slipped through the cracks of India’s anti-corruption framework.

And Lal Thanzara steps down

Yielding to rising pressure, Lal Thanzara, the health minister of Mizoram, on Tuesday resigned from both the state’s assembly and council of ministers.

for context, see this.

Mizoram CM’s brother claims he didn’t know he owned controversial shares until he read Scroll report

On the 29th of June, we had published an article highlighting endemic corruption in Mizoram’s roads sector. Well, there is an update on the matter now. The CM’s brother, who had been accused of owning shares in a company getting road contracts, has finally responded. In a meeting yesterday with Congress party workers, he said he did not know he had shares in the company. That he got to know from the Scroll article.
ps: today, incidentally, is a personal milestone. ten years now, of quitting business reporting for development journalism.

By limiting Aadhaar, Supreme Court may have given government a way to expand its reach

By now the contours of the events are known. On Tuesday morning, the Supreme Court referred to a Constitution Bench the question of whether Indians have a fundamental right to privacy. The same afternoon, when the judges reconvened, they restricted the use of the government’s biometrics-based identity project Aadhaar to only the public distribution system for food grains, kerosene and LPG.
These orders are unmistakably significant. But what do they mean for the public and the ambitious Aadhaar programme? Why is the Aadhaar project, which seeks to do no more than assign a unique number to all Indians, getting snared in questions of privacy?

I write again on Aadhaar after a long hiatus. See the tag cloud for other links on the project as well. see this link, especially.

Should India import onions?

Once again, India is hyperventilating over onions.
In Delhi, say press reports, prices of the bulb have spiked by 25% between July and August. Similar spikes are being reported from elsewhere in the country.
In response, blame games are underway. NAFED, a central government agency that procures agricultural produce, has accused the Delhi government of ignoring its missives in April, June and July about an imminent rise in onion prices.
Also underway are counter-measures to cool down onion prices. The Delhi government has decided to sell onions at subsidised rates. The central government has decided to import 10,000 tons of onions from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Egypt.
These responses are resulting in bemusement amongst food policy experts.

See the full story, here. Also see this earlier story for ET on onions.

why people in Nagaland and Manipur are responding cautiously to the new Naga peace accord

A day after the NDA announced its “historic” peace accord with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), speculation is rife in the two states affected most by the agreement – Nagaland and Manipur. What is the shape of the agreement hammered out by government and the rebel group?

After all, the NSCN was formed in the aftermath of the Shillong Accord of 1975, signed between the government of India and the Naga National Council, which soon faded into irrelevance. The terms of this agreement had stipulated that underground Naga organisations would give up arms and “formulate other issues for discussion for final settlement”. This accord was rejected as a sell-out to the Indian government.

Will the terms of the new agreement go any further?

See the story here.


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