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

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Masculine Identity, Workers and HIV/AIDS

Marginalised groups, living in economically unstable/ disadvantageous social settings have been particularly vulnerable to HIV/AID infection. This study of one such vulnerable group, workers in Wazirpur Industrial Area (WPIA), New Delhi, highlights the socio-economic context of HIV transmission among the unorganised workforce. Arguing that social identities are important determines of sexual behaviour, the study examines the ways in which workers construct their social identity within their given working and living conditions of WPIA.

Wazirpur Industrial Area (WPIA) is located in north-west Delhi. Spread over 210 acres, the area is divided into four blocks – A,B,C and Shed Area. The area was developed under the second master plan for Delhi in 1966. Though initially designed for plastic, hosiery and electronic industries, today steel utensil units overwhelmingly crowd the area. Other units like wool dyeing, copper wire drawing have also sprung up. In total there are about 2,000 units, though 80 per cent of them are nameless, existing only as plot numbers in papers. Barely 20 per cent are registered. These ghost units thrive on the most vulnerable migrant labourers – mostly from the very poor areas of northern India. The units are generally small and the owner also acts as the manager. Often crowded into buildings, sometimes a single building houses 8-12 units. About 60,000 workers work in these factories, either living within the factory premises, or as squatters within WPIA.

Most of the workers are migrants, primarily from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, as well as from Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Nepal and West Bengal, working as casual labourers in temporary jobs. The workers do not have access to any kind of insurance or social security provision. On an average, they are paid between Rs 800-Rs 1,500 per month (varying from factory to factory and according to the nature of work) for 12 hours of work every day. Payment is generally on time rate basis. Barely able to send home money as well as survive on their salary, their savings are either nil or negligible. Salary cuts, dismissals are common in Wazirpur as surplus labour exists. Job insecurity is very high and fear of the employer/contractor is apparent in their interactions.1

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