CWC NewsLetter -Issue No 10- December 2017

Bhima Sangha members dialogue with BBBMP Mayor; a milestone in their struggle to claim their entitlements.


















“Depriving migrant labourer communities of basic provisions and protection measures is a violation of their human rights “, asserted Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanahara Palike (BBMP) Mayor R. Sampath Raj on 26th November, during a consultation with Bhima Sangha ( Union of Working Children) members and government department officials.

The consultation  held in the migrant labour settlements of Krishnappa Garden area (ward 58) and Nagawarpalya area (ward 57); was a follow up to the discussion that  Bhima Sangha members had with the Mayor at his office on International Child Rights Day ( November 20th ) where they presented their demands. The consultation is the latest development in the campaign by Bhima Sangha members to demonstrate the continuous violations of their rights due to denial of adequate provisions and protection measures, and claim  their entitlements. A key demand of theirs is for a legally mandated structure – Makkala(children’s) Area Sabha; similar to the legally mandated Makkala Gram Sabhas in rural Karnataka. This would ensure continuous engagement of the local elected representatives and government officials with children and their experiences.

During the consultation in Krishnappa Garden Area, on the issue of lack of sanitation facilities, irregularity in availability of water, and lack of street light facilities; the Mayor made arrangements for an immediate meeting to be held with BEML (Public sector undertaking which owns the land where the community resides) authorities and concerned departments. He assured Bhima Sangha children that he would ensure that the facilities are provided to them at the earliest. In response to the issue of irregular clearance of garbage and waste in their area, the government official said that he would do the needful to ensure regular clearance, and also provided his number to Bhima Sangha representatives in case issues arise in the future.  On the issue of dilapidated Anganwadi, the Mayor asked the Child Development Project Officer to contact the contractor at the earliest and do the needful.

In Nagawarpalya, as the settlement is on private land, the Mayor stated that he would organize a meeting at the earliest with the owner, the councilor of the ward and concerned department officials; to ensure that basic facilities such as adequate number of toilets, clean drinking water are provided to them. In addition, on the demand of a safe play space, he stated that a playground would be built in an open space close to their settlement.

The Mayor visiting the areas and proposing solutions in consultation with Bhima Sangha children and government department officials is a huge milestone in Bhima  Sangha’s struggle to claim their entitlement .

This campaign by Bhima Sangha children to demonstrate the violation of their rights, highlighted the tragedy involving the death of a 17 year old girl at Krishnappa Garden, as a result of lack of toilet facilities.  In their discussions with the Concerned for Working Children soon after the heartbreaking incident, it was observed that while the family of the deceased girl was provided with a compensation of five lakh rupees , there were no steps taken to prevent similar instances from occurring in the future. It was decided by Bhima Sangha children that during International child rights week ( November 14th to November 20th )they would start the process of demonstrating the violations of several of their rights and claim their basic provision and protection rights; by approaching the local representatives and the BBMP Mayor.

Bhima Sangha children have had some success in their interaction with the local representatives (ward 57, ward 58) and the BBMP Mayor, who have all engaged with them and pursuing on remedial measures. Earlier in the year, the councilor from Vignan Nagar ward (ward 81) in association with Bhima Sangha and the Concerned for Working Children organized a Makkala( Children’s ) Area Sabha, which in addition to the participation of Bhima Sangha members ,the councilor,  and government officials , saw the participation of several civil society groups;  was highly appreciated by all and seen as a model to be established. Bhima Sangha and the Concerned for Working Children highly appreciate the efforts of the local representatives and the BBMP Mayor in engaging with and pursuing remedial measures.

This campaign is part of a larger state wide movement by members of the migrant labourer community to claim their entitlements. Recently the Karnataka Migrant Workers Union (KMWU)with the facilitation of the Concerned for Working Children organized a Samavesha (Dialogue) in Udupi, to claim their protection and provision rights,which saw the participation of over 600- representatives from the Udupi and Bangalore Chapters of the KMWU, members from Bhima Sangha, state and local elected representatives ; district level government officials, press and civil society members.


International Child Rights Week Campaign

Simultaneous with Bhima Sangha children’s campaign during International Child Rights Week to meet and discuss the violation of their rights with local elected representatives; an online campaign to demonstrate these violations was held on CWC’s facebook page. Each day highlighted an issue that Bhima Sangha children raised.

Day 1

The presence of uncovered drainage near our houses; results in our exposure to various diseases as it is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. During heavy rains the drains often overflow and enter our houses, subjecting us to the possibility of electrocution and other injuries. There is the constant risk especially of children falling into the drains and meeting with fatal accidents.” – Bhima Sangha members





















Day 2

“During rainy season especially in times of heavy rains, our houses get flooded either through water entering from the roof or through the doors. And there is the constant threat of the houses collapsing and coming undone during such weather.” – Bhima Sangha members         






















Day 3

“Lack of Adequate sanitation facilities has severe consequences particularly for us and women. There is the constant threat of outsiders harassing, assaulting or capturing pictures. It becomes an impossible task after sunset and during rains; and there is always the risk of being bitten by snakes.” – Bhima Sangha members






















Day 4

“ Most play spaces, are not inclusive and do not accommodate the needs of children with disabilities, the girl child , and children from marginalized communities such as us. We are often discriminated against and denied access to play spaces and play equipments by both visitors and guards. As a result we are forced to play in narrow and unsafe spaces.”- Bhima Sangha members





















Day 5

Majority of us rely on alternative sources of water supply for our everyday usage. We access water either through private suppliers or from nearby apartments, who sometimes charge us for it. Due to such circumstances we live in constant uncertainty about the availability of water, which is often also denied to us on arbitrary grounds”- Bhima Sangha Members 





















Day 6

“ A majority of us rely on alternate sources of power supply such as solar panels. While these solar panels generate power to light two to three bulbs, they are ineffective during the monsoons. As a result household chores and our education are adversely impacted. In addition they do not generate enough to power fans, making the heat unbearable.”- Bhima Sangha members























The Karnataka Migrant Workers’ Samavesha( 13th October 2017) ; a milestone in the migrant workers union’s struggle to claim their rights





















The tragic death of a 17 year old girl, belonging to the migrant labourer community residing at Krishnappa Garden in Bangalore on October 15, as a result of falling into an overflowing drain adjacent to her settlement cannot be looked upon as an isolated incident. Members from migrant labourer communities are perpetually exposed and vulnerable to such dangers, which often turn fatal due to the lack of basic provisions and infrastructure available to them.

Over the course of the past twenty five years, globalization has accelerated regional and socio – economic disparity. Similarly in Karnataka, frequent droughts, failed crops,  loss of means of  employment and livelihood opportunities, rapid urbanization and real estate boom in select cities, has resulted in individuals from rural Karnataka especially Northern Karnataka migrate in search for better opportunities, to cities such as Udupi and Bangalore, where they work as construction or daily  wage workers.

Their search for a better future is riddled with obstacles despite their imperative role in urban development and urban civic life, and their presence in the city for several decades. They continue to be  perceived with hostility and as outsiders –  denied fundamental provision and protection rights ensured to them constitutionally.

They experience various forms of exclusion, struggle to access basic provisions such as proper housing, sanitation, electricity and regular water supply. They are forced to live in cramped spaces which are usually located near drains, roads, or garbage dumping grounds. Women and Children face several challenges with regard to their protection and health.

Preferred for their cheap labor, most migrant workers work in the informal sector devoid of any social security or legal protection. Not only discriminated against, but also economically marginalised and having little capacity, they are faced with multiple forms of exploitation, at the hands of contractors, builders and middle – men. They are paid low wages by their employers and are not provided with any safety or protection with regard to work conditions, despite it being mandated by the law.

Furthermore, they are politically marginalised, and denied basic citizenship rights such as voting, since they aren’t recognized as local residents. They mostly rely on the informal/private support systems rather than formal and government support structures.

Women and children belonging to these communities face dual marginalization, as a result of being  migrant labourers and because of their gender / age. Women from migrant communities earn lower wages and face several challenges, with specific regard to that of menstrual and reproductive health. Children belonging to migrant communities are often faced with discrimination at school, as a result of which they drop – out, or because they don’t face provisions for facilities such as electricity to study at home.

In Karnataka, there are several schemes for the welfare of the migrant labourer community. One such major scheme is by the Karnataka Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, as per which one percent cess of the project cost is collected from the employers and used to ensure the welfare of  construction workers. This includes housing assistance, accident benefits, pension schemes, education assistance, hospitalization assistance etc. However, several thousand crores of rupees from the welfare fund remain unspent.

It is within this context that the Udupi chapter of the Karnataka Migrant Workers’ Union (KMWU) felt the urgent need for a Samavesha (Dialogue) with the elected representatives and government officials to claim the rights that have been consistently denied to them.

The KMWU, is a movement of migrant workers across Karnataka, which was formed in 2007 with the facilitation of the Concerned for Working Children(CWC).  CWC started working   with migrant labourer communities because of their highly marginalized status, and currently work with them in Bangalore and in the towns of Udupi and Kundapura. In addition, CWC works with communities in Northern Karnataka to try and reduce the need for migrantion by addressing poverty and unemployment.

KMWU with support and facilitation from the Concerned for Working Children has played a key role in building solidarity and providing a collective identity to members of the migrant community, enabling them to make their voices heard, and to claim their constitutional rights.

Over the years, it is the collective strength of the union and their long drawn struggles that has slowly helped them transform the quality of their life, by having access to basics such as housing facility.

The KMWU from Udupi with support from the Concerned for Working Children, organized the Karnataka Migrant Workers’ Samavesha on October 13th 2017 , at the Rajangana Shri Krishna Matha in Udupi, Karnataka. The Samavesha, a step forward in the struggle of the migrant labour communities ,saw the participation of over 600 ; representatives from the Udupi and Bangalore Chapters of the KMWU, members from  Bhima Sangha – working children’s union, state and local elected representatives; government officials,  press, civil society members , and students from Manipal University, St Mary’s College and Milagres College.

The event commenced with an enthusiastic procession through Udupi Town, led by migrant labourer communities across Udupi who poured out onto the streets with drums and placards. Women, children, men and the elderly could all be seen chanting slogans for access to their rights, with great fervor.

At the beginning of the Samavesha, members from the Udupi chapter of the KMWU submitted to the elected representatives and government officials present, with a document detailing the protection and provision issues faced by them, with special emphasis on issues pertaining to women and children. In addition, presentations were made by representatives from the KMWU and Bhima Sangha members.

Sreedevi  and Vanishree – representatives from the KMWU spoke about the irregular availability of water, poor housing , sanitation and electricity facilities. They pointed out the difficulties faced in obtaining Labour Cards, for the obtainment of which they often have to miss several days of work, resulting in loss of wage. They strongly responded to a Member of Legislative Council who demanded they maintain a certain standard of cleanliness, by making clear that they would do so provided they have access to sanitation and water facilities.

Bhima Sangha members Shilpa and Suralakshmi narrated the discrimination faced by them at school, and also highlighting the impact of lack of electricity, water and sanitation facilities on their education.

A sense of urgency prevailed throughout, with one such instance being, a KMWU representative pointing out the delay in arrival of the district level government representatives and state level elected representatives, who  stated emphatically that they would not leave the venue until they arrived and listened to their concerns.

Responding to the presentations, document detailing the issues, and witnessing the spirit of struggle, Mr. Pramod Madhavraj, a Member of Legislative Assembly and Cabinet Minister, stated that within fifteen days he would arrange for a meeting with the district administration , where the Migrant Union representatives would be invited, and issues raised would be resolved within a set timeframe.

Additionally, he also promised to take up and find a resolution to the issue of several thousand crores of unspent funds lying under the Karnataka Construction Workers’ Welfare Fund, with the Chief Minister.

Mrs. Shilpa Nag, Assistant Commissioner, assured the gathering that she would discuss with the District Commissioner, the possibility of providing night shelters to seasonal migrant workers in Udupi city similar to those existing provision in Kundapur town.

Labour Inspector, Mr. Vishwanath, assured the gathering that the department would immediately commence a registration drive for Labour Cards to be issued.. He also insisted that individuals must submit a copy of their Aadhar Card while registering for the labour card, but was later corrected by the Assistant Commissioner who stated that any form of identification would suffice, it didn’t necessarily have to be the Aadhar card..

In the KMWU’s struggle, the Samavesha is a major milestone towards claiming the rights of migrant workers. The efforts of the migrant labourer community in planning, organizing and participating in the Samavesha despite the loss of their daily wages, is highly commendable. The Samavesha with its zeal and fervor has strengthened the KMWU and their struggle. Taking inspiration from here, the Bangalore chapter of KMWU, plan to organize their own Samavesha. The  Samavesha has enabled the KMWU and has set the  stage for the movement to take  forward its struggle to and influence policy at the state level.




  • When you look into a child’s eyes you expect to see hope, trust and innocence; but when you see these signs of childhood are replaced by betrayal, hunger, fear & suspicion, we need to take a serious stock of ourselves and the society we have created.

    - Nandana Reddy | CWC

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