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  • Unity and Solidarity makes the General Strike a Resounding Success

  • Inflation Galloping, Workers struggling

  • Another feather in SEWA'S Hat - Award for RUDI no RADIO

  • Journey of Mitaben: Carrying SEWA tradition abroad

  • The Reminiscence of Italy Trip

  • Hawkers get an identity in Madhya Pradesh

Side Divider
No. 40 | March 2012
H2 Side Unity and Solidarity makes the General Strike a Resounding Success

28th February 2012 is going to create history in the annals of the Indian trade union movement. On this day, keeping aside their differences, all the 11 trade unions of the country declared a nation wide strike to protest against uncontrolled inflation, disinvestment and further marginalization of the people of the country.

Being the largest trade union of the self employed workers in India, SEWA actively participated in the strike to make it a huge success. The other Central trade unions in the joint platform include Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh, INTUC, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, CITU, AITUC, AIUTUC, AICCTU, TUCC, UTUC, and LPF.

The millions of workers who participated in this successful strike had put the following demands:

  • Minimum salary of Rs.10000 per month to all workers.
  • Universalizing Social Security for unorganized sector workers and setting up of a National Reserve Fund for this purpose.
  • Abolition of contract labor.
  • All workers should get bonus and Provident Fund.
  • All workers should come under the ambit of Pension Fund.
  • Compulsory registration of Trade unions within 45days.
  • ILO CONVETION 87 AND 98 to be ratified.

The trade union solidarity passed a resolution in which SEWA is also a signatory. This resolution was sent across all the trade unions in the country with a view to unleash an intensified campaign against the policies affecting common masses. SEWA and its nation wide network actively took part in this strike.

In Ahmedabad, SEWA, in association with other national trade unions organized a huge procession starting from the Zilla Panchayat office and go up to JP Chawk. The SEWA slogan of hum sab eek hai was accepted by the other members of the rally and it became the main slogan of the day as it beautifully reflects the unifying spirit of the strike. Indeed the unity of the workers was seen in true spirit of the slogan hum sab eek hai...

SEWA kerala also joined the strike in association with other trade unions to make this a grand success. In Kerala, awareness campaigns were carried out in taluka, district and state level in the month of January itself. The trade unions organized a state level convention on this issue. They staged Dharnas Vehicle rallies; work site strikes etc and press conferences were called. A total bandh was observed in Kerala on 28th February.

In Madhya Pradesh, SEWA in association with other trade unions held a press conference on 25th and 28th of February at Indore to raise media attention on the fundamental issues of the working class, especially the workers from unorganized sector. On 28th February, a huge rally and public meeting were also organized.

In Lucknow, SEWA joined the strike and a memorandum was submitted to the labor department to bring to light the social security problems faced by workers in the sector. In Bihar, SEWA organized a huge public meeting in Bhagalpur station chawk.

In nutshell, channelizing the nation wide network, SEWA actively participated in the one day general strike and immensely contributed in making it a land mark event. Through the widespread campaign, SEWA worked hard to get the unity at the national level percolated to the local level. Thus the message was conveyed to the widest possible section of workers to make the General Strike a resounding success throughout the country.

H2 Side Inflation Galloping, Workers struggling

Today inflation is galloping by leaps and bounds confusing the common man and making it difficult for them to meet both ends. The inflation for food items is higher than the general inflation. The volatility in food prices is likely to continue and would harm the poor. Even before the inflation for food items, the poor and vulnerable were significantly left behind.

Rising food prices in India would aggravate the food problems and livelihoods of the most vulnerable by eroding their already limited purchasing power. Poor people spend 60 to 70 per cent of their income on food and they have little capacity to adapt as prices rise and wages may not adjust accordingly.

Practically speaking it has become difficult to have two square meals a day for the poor women from the unorganized sector who are members of SEWA. SEWA has done a study on inflation and the following figures justify the one day strike called by the trade unions.

Prices of few of the essential commodities
Essential commodities Quantum Prevalent Price (Rs.)
Year 2010 Year 2012
Wheat Per 10 kgs 125 150
Rice Per Kg 15 20
Sugar Per Kg 20/22 31/35
Jaggery Per Kg 15/20 40/50
Oil (cotton seed) Per Kg 40/45 75/80
Chilly Per Kg 50/60 150
Turmeric Per Kg 75/80 200/250
Milk 500 ml 9 19
Tea Per Kg 150 250
Green Vegetables Per 1 Kg 5 15/20
Kerosene on the ration card Per 1 liter 9 13
Kerosene Per 1 liter 80/100 200/250
Electricity bill - 100/150 250/300
Toilet Soap - 3 5
Medical expenses - 20 40
Rent of residential premises(with out amenities) - 300/400 800/1000
Rent of residential premises(with amenities) - 500/700 1500

When increase in wages doesn't commensurate with the inflation and the volume of work reduces for the workers in the unorganized segment this situations takes a call on the health of this poor women and they develop diseases like blood pressure, depression, fear and anxiety ,dizziness back pain and various other diseases. Due to inflation the income levels drop and affects the capacity of the individuals to provide better education facilities to their children. There have been incidents where parents have to shift their children from schools run by private management to government schools. There have been incidents were children had to drop out or not allowed to continue education by the management when the parents were not able to pay the fee. The expenses for social functions have also shortened and people hence end up in borrowing money at high rate of interest to meet such occasions. Quarrels within the family increase since running the household expenses become difficult.

Given the alarming situation of accelerating price rise and static wage rates, it is extremely difficult for an informal sector worker to secure a decent life. Hence, the core issue before us is how to tackle the problem through collective strength and efforts. The magnitude and intensity of the problem seldom receive attention from policy makers and mainstream media. Therefore, we need to represent the voice of the poor who are deeply affected by the crisis.

H2 Side Another feather in SEWA'S Hat - Award for RUDI no RADIO

This is a proud moments for the entire SEWA fraternity - Our own Community Radio -"RUDI no Radio" - won second prize in the national level awards declared recently.

Giving a big fillip to the Community Radio (CR) movement in the country, the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in association with Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA) organized the Second National Sammelan of Community Radio from 18 to 20th February, 2012. SEWA was invited to participate in the Sammelan held at Vigyan Bhavan, New Dehi. Smt. Shantaben Koshti represented SEWA. The Sammelan witnessed more than 100 operational CR stations from different parts of India assembling on a single platform to share their problems and find a solution.

The government announced awards for the CRS with a view to boost the CR practitioners who have carved out a niche of their own within the social sphere The awards were given considering on the type of programs broadcasted by the CRS, its quality, out reach, effectiveness, format etc. There were three awards for each category as under

  • Thematic awards
  • Community engagement award
  • Award for promoting local culture
  • Award based on creative and innovative content of the programs
  • Sustainability model award
  • Innovative business model award.

"Rudi no Radio" was selected for award under the category of the most creative and innovative program. RUDI no Radio ranked second in this category.

SEWA received a shield and certificate from the Minister of State for Broadcasting S Jagatha krishan. The Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Smt.Ambikasoni was also present to grace the occasion.

Let us congratulate the CRS team of SEWA for leading the mission towards success amidst trials and tribulations...

H2 Side Journey of Mitaben: Carrying SEWA tradition abroad

As an organization and movement, SEWA not only build a platform for the informal sector women workers but also empower their mind, actions and role in family, community and the society at large. The underlying philosophy of SEWA influences the members so deeply that it remains as a beacon light throughout their life whenever they face difficulties. Mitaben's experience in Sri Lanka is a testimony to this. Read Mitaben's Story in her own words:

My name is Mitaben Arunbhai Parmar. I am a member of SEWA. I am a trainer of SEWA Managerni School. I also work as a master trainer in Para Veterinary under the training programs for the self employed.

I have attended in many workshops in and around the country before. In October, 2011, I got the first opportunity to attend an international workshop in Sri Lanka. The workshop which was joined organized by the FAO and MIJARC was held from 4 to - 8th October 2011.

The workshop was held with a view to understand the lack of interest among the new generation towards agriculture and the problems of sustainability of the farmers. Rural youth are the future of the agricultural sector. With a growing world population and a decreasing agricultural productivity in combination with a rural exodus, sustainable food production and supply are threatened. Young farmers can play an important role in ensuring food security for future generations but they face many challenges. The workshop was intended to understand the situation and present the facts before the government for the effective implementation of policies which can give solution to the inherent problems.

This 5 day workshop was attended by 40 participants from 13 countries. The relevant problems faced by the farmers like irregularity of rains, loss of crops due to excess heat, lower productivity and the resultant loss to the farmers were discussed at this workshop. The necessary government policies to help the farmers to tackle these problems were also discussed at this workshop.

I am a farmer's daughter and hence I understand the difficulties faced by farmers.

The first day of the workshop started with self introductions. I started my self-introduction as a member of SEWA and told the participants that we start our work at SEWA after chanting our prayer. Everyone present was happy to listen to our SEWA prayer which highlights the unity and harmony of all religions. They thanked me for chanting such a good and meaningful prayer.

Along with my brief introduction, I told that, in India, even though rural women do not come out of the four walls of their house these women including the ones living in far reach villages have tremendous skills and untapped potential. I informed them that SEWA endeavors to bring these women from the confines of their homes, train them and guide them to be self employed and independent. After listening to me every one present agreed that women should emerge as leaders.

There were many challenges in travelling to a new land, like the language and dress code. The thought of flying for the first time without proper knowledge of English started giving me discomforts. However, I overcome this fear thinking about the lakhs of my SEWA sisters joining me to encourage setting of to a new land for this workshop.

Once reaching Colombo, again, I started developing cold feet when the authorities questioned me on my arrival for the immigration and stamping on my VISA. They asked me the reason of my visit to their country and they wanted to know my destination in that country. I gathered courage and explained in broken English, that I am from SEWA and had come to attend a workshop on the problems faced by farmers. I showed them the SEWA banners to convince them just in case I could not explain my case. However they were convinced and they permitted me to set foot in their country by stamping on my VISA. I was relieved and I realized that one can progress in life if you have the courage to withstand the challenges.

I shared the room with a participant- a lady from Columbia. In our three days of staying together, we became friends. In the night when she used to work on her lap top, I asked her in my broken English, "I can email checking". She understood and agreed and helped me in sending an email to SEWA. I had problems in having food on the first day and did not want to eat anything since I did not know what was being served. Then I thought how long I will sustain without having food. I started thinking of the Gandhian principles taught to me at SEWA and realized that I have been trained to mix and mingle with people. Then I had some food on the first day. Thereafter I informed the hotel management that I am a pure vegetarian and they arranged for the food which I could eat. Thereafter I could join everybody for lunch and dinner without any resistance.

Initially I felt uncomfortable when I had to communicate with the other participants. However I could make out from their facial expressions, if they could understand what I wanted to convey through my broken English. The others also got used to my communication and I could mix in the crowd as sugar melts into milk.

H2 Side The Reminiscence of Italy Trip

"My first visit abroad was to Italy. It still reminds me of my experiences there as if it was only yesterday. Italy is a highly disciplined society with an active night life. I felt as if I have entered an era of electronics. It was clean every where, vehicles were parked in order and the atmosphere was pleasant. These are the things comes to my memory when I started thinking of Italy"

These are the words of Varshaben from the radio division of SEWA Academy. Varshaben along with Dhakshaben of Video division had gone to attend a technical training program in Italy.

The idea behind attending this training program was to learn from the success of the women who have come from France, Philippines, Peru, South Africa and other countries and have settled in Italy. 22 women were selected for interviews and the interviews were videographed. The interviews provided an opportunity to learn about the struggles these women had to undergo through out their life. At the end of the day what comes to our mind is that irrespective of the country and location these women belong to, they all have common problems so as the stories of their struggle... The stories of their struggle brought to light new way of self development and survival.

Training was imparted on Photography and Videography using ultramodern technique and latest gadgets. Operating the fancy gadgets was a pleasant surprise for us. We also learned various modern techniques in Videography and Photography like final cut prose and giving special effects to the photographs.

During the training program we were introduced to various skills and techniques to improve in the field of Videography. We were taught multitasking like taking live interviews and simultaneously editing and mixing the programs to be broadcasted live on the radios. We could also do and hear radio news channels being operated since 2008 in Italy. We feel the difference between the Rudi radio and the web.

New programs were produced daily and were broadcasted live. These programs also got instant feedback. These radios are run between 9-1 in morning and 3-6 pm in the evening. We also produced program on various prayers and also took interviews of women.

H2 Side Hawkers get an identity in Madhya Pradesh

Hawkers usually hawk their items by selling from carts or carrying these in baskets and moving around the cities to sell them or find a place to sit in the corner of a street or on the roadside or on footpath and sell the goods. The local administration keeps on driving away these hawkers from one pace to other making their life difficult.

Considering the difficulties faced by them, in 2004, the central government initiated a policy for street vendors and hawkers through its Urban Employment and Poverty Eradication Department where by the state governments were directed to start effective schemes in cities to achieve this objective to create urban employment and poverty eradication. The state governments were further instructed to conduct a survey of such people with a view to issue identity cards to each of them.

In Madhya Pradesh, SEWA had successfully conducted survey among the hawkers through the Municipal corporations in Indore, Ujjain, Handwa, Dhar, Sagar, Damoh, Bhopal, and other cities and helped them in getting ID cards. Hawking zones were identified and permanent hawking places were allotted to each of these identified hawkers. Additionally to ensure that they do not face financial difficulties SEWA deposited additional funds with Municipal Corporation to enable the local administration in issuing credit cards and licenses to the hawkers. However such zone would be identified only in cities. Subsequently, SEWA organized these women, created awareness among them and got them involved in various developmental activities initiated by SEWA.

After the survey was conducted the local administration entrusted the work of issuing identity cards to hawkers to SEWA MP. This was first initiated in Indore and thereafter in other cities as well. Various camps were organized by the local authorities and they permitted SEWA to issue licenses and credit cards after collecting a fee of 105 per applicant. The applicants were immediately issued ID cards on receipt of the fee and they were also given financial help.

The hawkers undergo various hardships to bring the goods at our doorsteps. The government framed policies for the benefit of these hawkers like issuing ID cards and allotting zones. However, the women have to pay a price for the zones and the price was so high and not affordable to them. Hence the government policies to accommodate the hawkers were not fully successful. Despite, these problems, these poor self employed women continue their association with SEWA because of the various activities aimed at extending support to widows and dependents, pension to specially abled people, and the regional development programs run by SEWA which bring economic benefits to its members.

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