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

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Crossroads and Boundaries

The absence of a gender perspective in the labour laws and the absence of any labour rights perspective in the anti-trafficking frameworks are the twin flaws that are particularly detrimental to the interests of migrant women workers in India. A corrective course that is cognisant of both the gender structures in labour relations and the gendered employment crisis is the need of the hour, if the state’s obligations under the Constitution are to be fulfilled.

Gamechanger or a Trojan Horse?

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, a key legislation in India that enables women to transcend the public–private dichotomy and stake their claim for productive participation in the labour force, saw major amendments in 2017. Four aspects of the amendments—increased maternity leave, maternity leave for adoption and surrogacy, provision of crèche, and paternity leave—are juxtaposed with feminist and constitutional principles as well as ground-level realities and practices. An increase in maternity benefits in law with a neglect of paternity leave and benefits is a lopsided approach that further reinforces gendered division of labour and care work as the domain of women. The social responsibility of employers is emphasised, and a deeper engagement of the state with the policy of parental benefits is advocated.

Examining Local Committees under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act

One of the major milestones of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is to provide a special redress mechanism for complaints in the unorganised sector. Section 7 of this act mandates the constitution of local committees by the state government. However, there remains a lack of data when it comes to understanding the functioning of the local committees. This paper examines the functioning of the local committees in general, based on the experiences of the author as an acting chairperson of the Mumbai city district local committee.

Impact of Uttarakhand’s Reservation Judgment on Women

Since the 1990s, the discourse around caste-based reservations has taken a sharp turn towards hostility, which has resulted in pushing individuals and groups obtaining reservations into marginalised corners in educational and professional spaces. The recent Supreme Court judgment about reservations in promotions in state employment in Uttarakhand reopens this legal and moral discussion about the need for caste-based quotas in employment. This paper evaluates the effects of the anti-reservation judgments with a gender lens, looking at the potential and possibilities for lower-caste women into education and employment. With the National Sample Survey Office data we consider the rate of participation of lower castes and women separately, as well as lower-caste women as a category in education and employment, and consider how they are affected at the entry point and in career progression.

Dispossessed Women’s Work

This paper examines the experiences of dispossessed women in terms of accessing work opportunities in a setting of opencast coal mining in Talcher coalfields of Odisha. Drawing its understanding from the framework of social exclusion and adverse inclusion in the discussions, it argues for the variegated experiences of women’s entry into different categories of work with reference to their gender, class and caste positions.

Social Reproduction, Constitutional Provisions and Capital Accumulation in Post-independent India

The relationship between social reproduction and capital accumulation in independent India is delineated by arguing that social reproduction subsidises wages through unpaid labour time and thus is crucial in the extraction of additional surplus in the wage–surplus relationship that constitutes capital accumulation. This process is dependent both on constitutional provisions and existing social relations.

The Colonial Roots of India’s Air Pollution Crisis

Tracing the genealogy of the scientific claim that Indian lung capacity is deficient vis-à-vis the “European norm,” it is argued that the pathologisation of the Indian lung that once justified colonial-era segregation has made a troubling contemporary return, producing state imperceptibility of pollution-induced illness. Specifically, colonial theories of tropical air suggest that the Indian lung is uniquely suited to a dusty environment. When invoked in the present, this obviates the need for urgent pollution abatement action.

Neo-liberalising Inclusion?

Non-governmental organisations and civil society actors have mobilised in several Indian cities around issues facing informal waste pickers. Data (surveys, narratives, visualisations) is a key basis on which ngos premise such negotiations with the state. How a data-based ngo–state collaboration can provide the state new modalities of intervention and control over informal labour and its unaccounted value chains is discussed. However, the state’s response, as observed in Chennai, had been fractured and idiosyncratic. Given this, it is also shown how this selective “hearing” by the state is articulated with certain dynamics of data and ngo activism to facilitate the roll-out and rollback processes of neo-liberalisation in Chennai.

Numbing Machines

What forms does manual scavenging take after its legal abolition? Analysing the recent deaths in Bengaluru’s sewage treatment plants and underground drainage systems, the understandings of manual scavenging as an “archaic” practice and opposed to the “rule of law” are rejected. The contractualisation of sewer maintenance instrumentalises “untouchable” bodies, making the calibration of caste power coincidental with the calibration of urban sewerage. Urban manual scavenging is shown to be an emergent application of caste power that resolves ecological impasses in contemporary sewerage. The objectification of caste power in urban infrastructures nevertheless opens up new locations for politicising normative caste embodiment.

From Balmikis to Bengalis

The reorganisation of informal household garbage collection work in Delhi is analysed, as migrants from eastern states like West Bengal have begun doing manual waste work, even as their Balmikis deal only with monthly cash payments. Drawing on fieldwork, the effect on the Balmiki jamadars is noted, and the Bengali Muslims, who newly contend with the practices of untouchability in their neighbourhoods of work, are focused on. These newer migrants come to justify the shame they experience by focusing on the equivalence of scrap with money, which has redemptive potential. This reveals a dynamic process through which caste differences are being remade—”casteification”—in relation to economic life.

Urban Waste and the Human–Animal Interface in Delhi

It is well-documented that urban waste contributes to the economy by creating livelihoods. Less is known, however, about the role of urban waste in producing human–animal ecologies involving livestock and wild birds. Here, four aspects of human–animal relationships in two urban subsystems involving waste as raw material for both stall-fed livestock (focusing on cows) and foragers (focusing on kites) are discussed. These are the roles of waste as feed; complex spatial relationships between animals, humans and their wastes; high densities of animals and humans leading to conflict over waste; and emerging threats of diseases spilling across social and physical barriers between animals and humans mediated by waste, with implications for the health of urbanised living beings.

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