Shafiq R Khan

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Why India still consists a large number of people in Modern day Slavery- 1

The foot soldiers of human rights movement

In 2008, I joined an organization to lead a project (which is Pan India Government scheme for protecting child rights and it is also known for its work on Child protection including Child marriages and trafficking.) This project was initiated as private effort which became a government scheme as it had shown its major impact in the field of child protection.
After joining this project I met my colleagues who were working as field workers and have assignment to visit field and directly deal with children in need. I found them unwilling and looking depressed. I suggested them that if they don’t want to work with this project they should do some interesting which they find connected to them as they were energetic youths. They were silent and said they will try to overcome and work with passion. After a brief orientation I wonder to learn that they are working for  Rs 1500/month salary which was 50% of minimum wage prescribed by Government for unskilled workers and with a basic educational qualification and training they were eligible to be semi skilled workers whos minimum wage at that time were Rs. 4200
My team members were native of different rural areas who were migrated to get this job and living in rented shelter. It was really painful to see that they were arranging almost everything food, shelter and cloths because they always need to maintain their cloths (as prescribed by organization). Two of them were responsible for night duty in the office, and the organization obliged them by convincing them that as they are staying in office they not need to pay rent anywhere. For using the office they became responsible for doing office assistance. Some time they were doing cleaning and washing. They were also responsible for cleaning the office car.

Imagine, they were recruited for providing assistance to children in need and they have a long list of work with a pay which was less than 50% of minimum wage. (in that government project those field workers were mentioned as volunteer or part time worker with a long list of task).
Para-counselor was getting Rs 2500 while the minimum wage for skilled worker was 5500 and I was getting Rs 9000 it was more than minimum wage. 
So why they were working in such a exploiter environment because they was no option available there. Majority of those field workers were enrolled in BSW (Bachlor of social work) in IGNOU and they wanted to make their career in social sector and they hoped that one day they can get a handsome salary.
One of my team members once said “we claim to protect the children and their rights but who will come to protect our children” the other team member replied “the same project” and we laughed loudly.
I raised this concern before my seniors and the nodal agency we were reporting to. And it was a shock to learn that the whole project was shaped in such situation our organization was not doing any wrong according to project. There was no enough money to provide its staff.
I tried to manage in my capacity but with in a year I decided to leave for some reason. In 2010 they reviewed their budget and they provided some more money into it but still that was less than minimum wage.
In 2012, I attended a meeting organized by a well know international agency working against poverty and injustice worldwide. They are also known to work against Modern day slavery. In that meeting their partners were presenting their achievement and other strategies. During that presentation I learnt that one of their projects provides Rs 1300 to their field workers in Delhi. Who works in Slum areas with right based approach. The director of that partner NGO was saying that this budget is even not sufficient for the traveling of those field workers. I asked her if her organization is giving some more money to them She refused by saying we have very few projects and almost all projects are alike so there is no extra budget to give them.
So why they are working answer is same with hope that one day the budget of the project will be increased and they will get full salary.  
So Government to International agencies, the foot soldier of any project have almost same pathetic situation to survive, they claimed to be protector of human rights but they can’t protect themselves.
It is well established fact that most of national international organizations hire some human recourse provider agency to place office staff and other workers just to avoid laborer law. This is not applicable for skilled workers but the unskilled workers; they know that they can’t directly exploit skilled workers so they hire peon, drivers and other field workers on payroll of some Human resource agency. Rest their skilled workers work without any restricted work hours because they are doing social work and fighting for social justice.      


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