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

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Strong Women, Weak Bodies, Muted Voices

Women Construction Workers in Delhi

If Delhi is building its way towards becoming a "global city" through mammoth infrastructure and construction projects, then what is the story of those people whose work helps put up its massive structures? The role played by women who are employed in the construction of Delhi's megastructures is even more intriguing, for they not only become workers-earners in a vast city but continue to fulfi l the role of a mother-wife-householder.

This essay is an edited version of a longer paper that was prepared as part of the Krishna Raj Summer Fellowship Programme 2011-12.

Delhi holds an important place in the imagination of India from both within and outside the country. Keeping in mind the central role the city plays as a source of power regarding matters political, economic and social, two separate habitats have developed within Delhi’s geographical space. There is the Delhi of the migrant and the non-migrant, of the rich and the poor, of the upper class and the lower class, of the haves and the have-nots. R­ecent reflections on the city have captured this dichotomy vividly, only because it is so neatly visible to an observer of the city.

If Delhi is building its way t­owards ­becoming a “global city” through mammoth infrastructural and construction projects, then what is the story of those people whose work helps put up its massive structures? Who are these ­people, building the “world-class” city? Men and women from across the ­country m­igrate to Delhi to participate in the creation of the city. But what is their e­xperience of the process in which they participate? The role played by women who are ­employed in the ­construction of Delhi’s megastructures is even more i­ntriguing, for they not only become workers-­earners in a vast city, but ­continue to fulfil the role of a ­mother-wife-householder. How does their experience of the city contribute to their imagination of the city? Does the city acknowledge them as its ­citizens and do these women call the city their home?

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