The Shramik Sammaan (Dignity of Labour) project was setup by Bilal Khan, Anil Hebbar and Lara Jesani. The idea was inspired by the plight of migrant labourers across India during the lockdowns that have taken place as a result of the pandemic. These lockdowns forced many migrant workers to travel hundreds – sometimes thousands – of miles home on foot because they were no longer able to work for their livelihoods.
The founders reached an important conclusion: that the practice of migration was a direct result of an economic model that focuses the lion’s share of goods, services, and career opportunities in urban areas. As such, the objective of the project was to “generate employment and provide livelihood and economic opportunities for the migrant workers.”
A key inspiration for their initiative was Gandhi’s concept of decentralisation—something which could be pursued by supporting livelihoods on a local scale, in towns and villages. The idea being that if a livelihood is available locally, people would feel less pressure to migrate in search of work in bigger cities, where employment is often precarious and exploitative, and living conditions are miserable. Building localised economies also creates positive feedback loops, as with economic sovereignty come further avenues of opportunity, further encouraging people to participate. This also has ecological implications, as localised economies reduce the risk of environmental harm caused by the long supply chains used for sourcing goods from afar. People producing for local consumption are also more inclined to respect their surroundings.
Since its inception in 2020, the project has successfully funded 30 projects in the states of Haryana, Gujarat, Tripura, Jharkhand, Bihar and Maharashtra. They have a set of criteria which they follow when choosing projects to support, these include:
Showing integrity, fairness and transparency in the activity
Doing all dealings with no fraudulent intentions
Providing employment to manual/unskilled/casual labourers
Making use of local resources and knowledge
Shramik Sammaan emphasises addressing the root causes, rather than merely the result, of people migrating. This means they seek to understand locally contingent issues which may lead people to migrate.
FInd out more: www.helpinghandsct.org