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Livelihoods

Tue 2Sep2014

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Making a difference in Mudumalai

Sometimes, all it takes to transform a place is one man doing his job well. Rajiv Srivastava, field director of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, has made that difference, involving adivasis in forest and animal conservation, writes Mari Marcel Thekaekara

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S R Sankaran: Champion of the safai karmacharis

By Mari Marcel Thekaekara

S R Sankaran, who died recently, transformed the lives of countless people. As a civil servant he worked for the poor, bonded labourers and dalits, and as mentor to the Safai Karmachari Andolan he saw the number of women manually cleaning excreta decline from 13 lakh to 3 lakh

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Child labour of a different kind

By Mari Marcel Thekaekara

The middle classes object to poor children working in sweatshops, whether in Sivakasi match factories or the carpet industry in Kashmir. But they consider it the height of achievement to get a child onto a television show or a modelling contract

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Child labour and untouchability in government schools

By Mari Marcel Thekaekara

At a public hearing in August 2009 at the Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram, balmiki children testified that they were being singled out in government schools and forced to clean classrooms and bathrooms. If such blatant discrimination can occur in an institution that is supposed to educate and nurture children, how far have we really come?

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Street superheroes

By Mari Marcel Thekaekara

Politicians love the poor, who make powerful votebanks. Not so India’s 18 million street children, who do not have the vote. The many laws and conventions that cover them have little meaning. Only a few NGOs are battling for streetkids, with some like RLHP in Mysore reporting great success in educating and rehabilitating them

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Malgudi Coffee Shop and other stories

By Mari Marcel Thekaekara

Twelve dalit girls are baking bread and cakes at a Mysore café. Elsewhere in Mysore sex workers and transgenders are running their own restaurant. At La Boulangerie in Chennai, dalit youth are baking French delicacies and supplying them to 5-star hotels. These ‘tasty’ experiments are about breaking the vicious circle of oppression and making a political statement

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In defence of the street economy

By Mari Marcel Thekaekara

Street vendors are good for providing local colour in Incredible India tourist campaigns, but 10 million of them are without any rights and treated as a nuisance. Yet, this vast body of people provides invaluable services in cities and adds to a city’s earnings instead of being a drain on it. Instead of evicting them, their activities should be regularised

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Dying for a living

By Mari Marcel Thekaekara

In most developed countries, manhole workers are provided bunny suits and respiratory apparatus. In Hong Kong, a sewer worker needs to have 15 licences in order to enter a manhole. In India, conservancy workers – mostly from the balmiki subcaste of dalits -- go in almost naked. The mortality rate amongst them is appallingly high

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Children of the stone quarries

Watching 12-year-old Rangamma pound rocks with a 2-kg hammer in a stone quarry, the statistics on child labour leap to life, says Mari Marcel Thekaekara. Anti-Slavery International estimates that roughly 1 million children do extremely dangerous work in India’s stone quarries

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India has reneged on all its promises to adivasis

At 84 million, India has the largest number of indigenous people. Why are the adivasis still so marginalised, asks Mari Marcel Thekaekara. Why are they displaced from their lands and forests, and reduced to migrant labour?

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