Friday, May 23, 2014

Visiting Project Awaaz

Doug and Shrey in front of the office Project Awaaz operates in the field from (separate from the project office)

Today we had the opportunity to visit the Awaaz Project. Upon arrival we were met by Piyali, who is the project's program manager. She began by telling us a little bit about the main aims of the project. She explained to us that the project helps migrant workers who are primarily bicycle rickshaw pullers with health issues related to STIs specifically HIV/AIDS. The project also focuses on helping the migrant workers access their citizenship rights. Maitri helps them register so they are not only able to vote, but so they also may benefit from the different social services provided by the Indian government. Along with helping these workers gain citizenship rights, Maitri also helps them establish basic bank accounts, so they can safely keep their money.
After giving us a brief introduction of the project Piyali told us to follow her as she showed us around the small community. Though the community the people were living in wasn’t very large she said that during July there will be close to 5,000 people living there. She explained how most of the migrant workers travel to Delhi in the summer months after they completed farm work they participate in. When we were there a decent number of people were about, however this was during their work day. It is hard to imagine what the camp must be like when all of the workers are there at night. The workers residing in the camp live in small makeshift houses
Seeing the large group of migrant workers made me wonder about the role globalization, more specifically market liberalization, plays in making rural farm subsistence not as viable of option as it once was. Upon further research my suspicions were confirmed. India’s rural farm sector has suffered under market liberalization and structural adjustment plans. Prices for agricultural production has fallen given the influx of cheaper produced crops as import duties have been lowered. Not only this, but India has decreased subsidies for farmers, and restructured the public distribution system. The lack of year around employment opportunities forces these workers to come to Delhi in search of work. When people think about market liberalization and globalization they often think about the successes of such occurrences, but they don’t realize that many people are negatively affected. For me seeing this many migrant workers living in such poor conditions is yet another acknowledgement of how real the consequences of international actions can be on a local scale.

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