Shram Ko Naman: Far From Home

The COVID-19 Pandemic has exacerbated the existing gaps in social class and privilege. The faultlines of class in our society that run deep and wide are clearer now, more than ever. While the quarantine is taking its toll on almost every citizen, certain sections of our society are still vexed with access to food and basic necessities. During this state of uncertainty and global turmoil, migrant workers are perhaps facing the most pressing adversities of all.

Shram Ko Naman: Bittersweet Days

Migrants from Uttar Pradesh would find rich employment opportunities in the Sugarcane Belt around Pune. As migrant workers scurry back home amidst coronavirus concerns, jaggery production schedule has taken a different turn. This small-scale business is working on diminished capacity as only 10% of migrant workers decided to stay back. Now these workers burn the midnight oil as production facility runs 24 hours a day, with workers working in 3 shifts.

Shram Ko Naman: Masked Heroes

Amidst the rising death toll due to COVID-19, the cremation of Corona-affected bodies has become the task no one wants to take up. As a result of their marginalised status, the migrant workers have drawn the short stick as they brave their way in crematoriums across the city. This photo essay seeks to capture their story and draw attention to their valuable contribution to society while working at crematoriums in this pandemic.

Shram Ko Naman: Sacred Steps

Having grown up immersed in certain traditions and festivals, culture becomes an integral part of our lives and identity. They are more than just an occasion to express community spirit, our festivals and traditions are representatives of our heritage and cultural identities. The Ashadi ‘palkhi’ procession, also known as Wari Procession, is a crucial part of Marathi culture. Under this 800-year old tradition, thousands of devotees undertake a pilgrimage on foot carrying Palkhis containing the footprints (padukas) of Saints Dnyaneshwar and Saint Tukaram. Due to COVID-19, the procession was disrupted and cancelled. As per state orders, the footprints will be be transported by air or road without the procession.

Shram Ko Naman: Narratives of Resilience

From sex workers to business owners, the pandemic has, albeit
disproportionately, brought a storm of economic concern in the lives of the people. Amidst uncertainty and naive optimism, all economic actors are responding differently. As gym owners protest and demand the re-opening of gyms and unions fight for job security, hotels breathe a sigh of relief with permission being granted for hotels to reopen. Migrant workers rush back home, local businesses get back up on their feet and sex workers find aid in the hands of NGOs. After 7 months of the pandemic, some journeys of struggle and hardships are reaching a sweet end, while some are reaching a climax.

Shram Ko Naman: The Indian Housing Crisis

During a raging pandemic where livelihoods have been severely affected, the government has not only failed to control the rising unemployment or failing economy, it has rendered the fate of these people hanging in uncertainty. Thousands of families are at the risk of being evicted without a suitable housing alternative during dire times.

Shram Ko Naman: Deadly Wastelands

Bhalswa landfill is one of Delhi’s primary dumping grounds for dealing with the city’s massive waste output. Following heavy overnight rains on August 13, 2020, a portion of the landfill collapsed, injuring three people and destroying jhuggis (shanty
settlements) in the neighbouring region. Landfills are perceived with repugnance and distaste by city dwellers, but they fail to recognise and accept the grim reality of our lives which suffocate the planet and the poor everyday. As the mountains of waste gain higher peaks, the struggles of life for the people living in the shadow of society and those mountains rise at a higher rate.