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The Voice of a Labourer

April 23, 2022

Grishma Kajbaje is a student of ISDM's Post-Graduate Program in Development Management. During the rural immersion program called 'Realising India', she went to Dariapur Patti village, Kannauj District, Uttar Pradesh where she met a man whose long-drawn battle for the fundamental rights of labourers has kept him on his feet with no respite.

Sushil* works as a daily wage labourer. I met Sushil while walking on the small lanes of Dariapur Patti village. I remember him sitting outside his house and reading a newspaper. He looked at our team from the corner of his eyes with curiosity. I stopped to have an informal conversation with him, during which I found out that he was the elder son of his family and the son of his father's fourth wife. He has four sisters and a younger brother who is a doctor in Kannauj. His father was a bamboo basket weaver and worked as a labourer. Sushil's childhood was filled with struggle, living in poverty. He completed his primary education till the fifth standard from the only government school in his village, and his secondary education in Kannauj. He worked as a child labourer on farms and construction sites and helped support the family with his earnings.

Sushil says that he was fired from his job in an agro-products company in 2018 because he raised his voice against labour exploitation. Initially, he was appointed as a night watchman, earning a daily wage of Rs 2600/- for 16-hours of work from 4 pm to 8 am. After three months, seeing his dedication and work ethic, he was promoted to a Salary Receipt Accountant, earning Rs 3000/- as a daily wage. Since this money wasn't enough to support their family, Sushil simultaneously worked on the construction site. In addition, he took out a loan and bought a wheat flour machine to sell flour in the village, grinding wheat flour from 2:30 am to 7 am. He then went to a cold storage unit at 10 am, working there till 5 pm; sometimes even more than that, but no extra wages were paid even if the person worked beyond 8 hours.

The Voice of a Labourer
Labourers at work in a factory in Kannauj

Sushil raised his voice and made many complaints to the company owner. Another three years of hard work went by when they promoted him to a Bill Accountant. He again experienced and observed that labourers were not given holidays on Sundays and festive occasions. Double shifts also earned no extra wages. Sushil complained again, but they didn't take them seriously. Sushil applied for the role of an Accountant when the position became vacant, and he cracked the exam and passed the interview. He was a permanent registered employee after seven years of working there. Even though his salary has officially increased to Rs 8000/-, he continued to be paid Rs 3500/-. The company made labourers sign blank papers and debited vouchers in their names. This time, it went beyond Sushi's tolerance. He convinced all the labourers to put their foot down and not take this treatment. The owner became upset with Sushil, fired, and blamed him for being responsible for this protest, filing a case against them in the Civil Court. Even though Sushil lost his job, he did not give up as he continued to fight for justice for all the labourers in the company.

Having lost his primary source of livelihood, Sushil bought a small piece of land with some loans and harvested potatoes and maize. He sells milk from the cattle he owns, sells wheat flour in the morning, and looks for daily wage labour during the rest of the day. He ensures that he pays his debts on time and timely renews the loans, maintaining his self-respect.

"Voice, courage, and hope are the three important elements to survive in today's world.", said Sushil. He believes that women and youth are game-changers for our country. He fought for eleven years for his sister in a case of domestic violence, making sure that her in-laws were jailed and punished. He motivates his younger daughter to become a doctor one day to serve the country. He wishes for his son to join the Indian Army. His most prominent source of inspiration is his wife, who has continued to support him despite their many hardships.

Sushil inspires me to raise my voice against injustices and makes me believe there is hope for our country if we are ready to be courageous and work hard.

If you are considering a career in Social Sector, it might be worth your while to look into PGP -DM program offered by ISDM. You can find more information about the program here:

Grishma Kajbaje

*All names have been changed to protect identities

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