Saturday, April 16, 2011

Professional diversification and labour migrations in Peri-urban villages of Gurgaon – A field perspective

The field experiences continue to grow and become more enriching with each and every visit. An integral aspect has been, to be able to find something new every time we go to the field. A part of this experience has been to understand the local professional pattern and the kind of impact this has on the migration pattern in peri-urban villages. These experiences are derivatives of close observations and resulting inferences. After all, not everything in research needs statistical justification!! 

A general observation in peri-urban villages of Gurgaon has been identification of people with different backgrounds, different professions, different constrains and different perspectives. Professional diversity stands out as a very important aspect, especially in the context of peri-urban villages. Field experiences have revealed that increasing number of villagers go to local urban centres for working in private companies/factories, government offices etc. With increasing emigration of village labourers, a corresponding dearth in village people working as labourers in the village, has been observed. In fact, a common comment from villagers has been – gaaon ke mazdoor kam ho gaye hain (the village labourers have reduced) or gaaon ke mazdoor ab rahe he nahi (the village labourers do not exist anymore)! The reduction in number of village labourers can have very interesting consequences as observed during one of the field visits. In Sultanpur village, when the Sarpanch was asked why the local johads could not be cleaned under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), he quickly retorted that there are very few village labourers and even they are reluctant to work under NREGA. He also added that although he has the money, he does not have village people ready to work!  Few more interesting observations were made at household level. In one such household, a Zamindar said that he was sure his children did not even know where their lands were! Although such remark by a traditional Zamindar sounds innocuous, what it points towards is a change, which in the coming years will become an integral part of life. These changes are becoming evident in the peri-urban villages, pointing towards the increasing professional diversification.

The outflow of village labourers and the corresponding professional diversification has also resulted into inflow of labourers from local urban centres to these villages. The primary driving force behind the immigration of labourers from urban centres is obviously the availability of work. Another factor that might be causing the immigration is relatively less expenditure on accommodation, food etc. The number of these immigrated labourers increases even more during the harvesting season. With an increase in the number of immigrated labourers, the few village labourers, if any, face stiff competition. Since the immigrated labourers are ready to work for a relatively lesser price, the village labourers are forced to sit at home. This was the story of one of the Balmik families in Jhanjhrola Khera. When asked if they don’t have any work, they promptly replied – Agar kaam hota to yahan baithe thode he na rehte (If only we had work, we would not be sitting here).

What this points out is that there is a whole lot of dynamics associated with the migrations of labourers between urban and peri-urban centres. Since flow of labour is one defining features of peri-urban region, researches cannot afford to be blind to them. Looks like the great migration is not the story of past, or confined only to urban centres, but is very much part and parcel of peri-urban lifestyle!

Monthly update (April) – Gurgaon project

One of our lead researchers, Dr. Vishal Narain spoke at the India Water Forum (IWF) organised by TERI on 15th April 2011. The title of his talk was ‘'Water security and vulnerability: perspectives from a periurban context". This was a part of the session on "Sustainable cities, water supply and distribution". The event was organized in association with the Ministry of Water Resources and the Department of Drinking Water Supply, Government of India. The IWF theme was ‘Water Security and Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities.

Dr. Narain will also attend the water justice workshop in Pune from 18 to 22 April 2011. This workshop is jointly organized by WUR, SOPPECOM and the FORUM for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India.

The Gurgaon research team met Mr. Swapnil Shekhar from Sambodhi. This was part of exploring possibility of involving them for their help in analysis of data and also capacity building of the team through training programme. 

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