Parcham wishes everyone an Inqalabi May Day!
History of May Day takes us back to 1886 when workers protested the inhumane conditions of work and the struggle brought about laws to protect workers from exploitation. India, imagined as a socialist country by those who had fought for its freedom made provisions for guaranteeing workers rights through the Constitution of the country which included the right to collectivise in a union.
In 2020, the Indian Parliament amended labour laws to take away the right to protest. Some states amended the law to take workers back to 12 hour workdays and 72 hour work week, took away the right to safety of workers at the industrial unit. We witnessed the sights of migrant workers walking thousands of miles back home, some dying on the way from fatigue and starvation. Those who stayed back registered with the numerous helplines for rations, medicines, rent, electricity bill payment, a mobile recharge to stay connected to their family back home. So many years of laboring did not enable them to save to buy rations for even a couple of months.
While the lockdown wrecked havoc on the lives of daily wagers, Parcham engaged in relief work. We were also involved in a study to understand experiences of Muslims in the formal sector. The literature review for the study brought out many distressing facts including the low workforce participation of Muslims in the formal sector. According to the 2011 census, Muslims have the lowest share of working people – about 33%. Their share in the formal sector is lowest compared to all other religious communities and are underrepresented in the administrative services (3% in the IAS, 1.8% in the IFS, 4% in the IPS). The even lower representation of Muslim women in the workforce brings down the average of the community further.
This issue of Urooj, a quarterly newsletter of Parcham bringing out the secular Muslim voice was to mark International Labour Day. The sessions were on labour issues that workers were grappling with, the farmer’s protests, the Parcham study on issues of Muslims in the workplace. We discussed the Sachar report yet again, focusing on the chapters on livelihood, education and wakf. We discussed the poverty among Muslims, the role of Zakat and Wakf in addressing some of these concerns. These discussions were followed by deciding on topics to write about, feedback on each other’s writing and this final write up published here.
Urooj aims to contribute to placing before the world thoughts of Muslim youth on governance, identity and all that is important to them. We hope to hear your feedback to make it better.
We wish to thank Coro for Literacy for the Samata Fellowship which has made this endeavour possible. We thank Sitaram Shelar for jointly conducting the sessions with us.