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

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Delhi: Organising for Safe Livelihoods: Feasible Options

For many decades now, the prevailing wisdom has been to organise workers at the place of work. Industry in India, however has clearly moved away from the model of the large-scale organised production process. Labour associations have found it difficult to organise the insecure and distributed workforce. The movement among workers displaced by the relocation of industry in Delhi offers some alternatives to the traditional forms of organisation

The poor and lower middle class population of Delhi is under attack on several fronts. There is the steady erosion of working opportunities as public sector enterprises such as Delhi Transport Corporation and Delhi Vidyut Board are ‘privatised’ and ‘corporatised’ in the name of efficiency. There is the constant threat of eviction from ‘illegal’ homes and displacement to far-off ‘resettlement’ locations where work is not available. Not only are hard-earned possessions and investments lost in the process, but the new location requires larger investment to make it liveable. Currently, there is also the thrust towards closing down industries and transport modes in the cause of ‘clean environment’. All this is actively underlined by articulate ‘citizens’, columnists, ‘environmentalists’, judges, architects, urban planners, administrators, ‘welfare’ associations from the well-off residential colonies, and other ‘eminent persons’. The ‘silent majority’ is being vociferously mobilised to preserve its ‘rich heritage’. Society is being ‘structurally adjusted’ to meet the needs of the ‘global market’. What exactly is the nature of this ‘adjustment’, and what could be a strategy to meet its challenge?

There are about 140 lakh people in Delhi today. The Second Master Plan (1982-2001) had recognised in 1981 that, going by the prevailing rate of population growth, the urban population of Delhi by 2001 would be 144.26 lakh, to be ‘controlled’ at 128.10 lakh. The projected workforce in this was 49.08 lakh: with 30.5 per cent in service, 29.7 per cent in manufacturing, 21.8 per cent in trade and commerce, and 11.3 per cent in transport. Currently, it is estimated that roughly 60 per cent of the population may be living in subhuman conditions. There are 35 lakh people in the estimated 1,500 ‘unauthorised’ colonies (UC), which are not entitled to any civic services. Another 30 lakh live in six lakh ‘jhuggies’ in over 1,200 ‘jhuggi’ clusters (JJ), where the municipality is supposed to provide communal facilities. And more than 15 lakh live in the ‘resettlement’ colonies (RC), who are entitled to household sites and services.

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