ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Articles By Rohini Sahni

COVID-19 and Female Unpaid Labour

The Covid-19 pandemic and the associated lockdowns have added to the unpaid household labour for women. However, to what extent is this event unique in doing so? In this article, we try to place the impact of the pandemic in the broader dynamics of household work performed by women. The article discusses the consumption-driven pressures in the household, alongside the increasing marketisation of women’s work in the domestic space.

Sex Work, COVID-19, and Half-truths

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns have affected informal labour markets in India at large. But how have they affected sex workers in particular? Going beyond the urban-centric reportage of exploited sex workers confined to brothels with no incomes and heavy debts, how were they affected and what were their coping strategies? In this paper, we draw upon the results of a multistate survey of female/male/ transgender sex workers to present a more realistic and nuanced narrative. In particular, we revisit and complicate some of the stereotypes concerning the immobility of sex workers within informal labour markets, their indebtedness, and bondage to informal creditors. At the same time, we draw attention to the much-needed support from the state in tiding over the pandemic-induced crises.

Sex Work, Sex Trafficking, and Myopia of the State

Why does the state fail to notice that a girl/woman entering prostitution, either through coercion or choice, is the same one who got married early, never went to school, or struggled in informal labour markets from an early age? From being consistently invisible in the pre-sex work phase of her life, what makes a sex worker so visible in the eyes of the state? What does this reveal of the state rather than the sex worker? The answers to these questions could help us think of sex workers’ lives beyond the narrow debates of trafficking versus sex work, making them part of more mainstream development concerns.

Waste Pickers and the ‘Right to Waste’ in an Indian City

Waste belongs to households and then to the municipality once it enters the public collection/disposal system. What does this mean for informal waste pickers? Despite their numbers and importance, they lack a “right to waste” and are vulnerable to processes of accumulation. This paper presents the counter-narrative of Solid Waste Collection and Handling, India’s first wholly self-owned cooperative of waste pickers, which has been contracted by the Pune Municipal Corporation for door-to-door waste collection. The initiative legitimises a “right to waste” for waste pickers by allowing them direct access to waste from households, and has reconceptualised waste and work for waste pickers, while altering their engagement with other stakeholders.

How Demonetisation Affected Informal Labour

The impact of demonetisation on the informal economy in India went far beyond cash shortages. This article examines the informal waste chains in the Pune Metropolitan Region, and outlines the tussles that emerged between informal labour and informal capital in the days following demonetisation. The resulting loss of trust in transactions continued to linger long after the cash shortages had eased. It diverted some of the backlash of the informal, urban poor from the government towards the more immediate nemesis—informal capital—which saw an opportunity of accumulation in the mayhem of demonetisation