Slice of the Kolkata city

Kolkata provides succour for a host of migrants from across the
country who have discovered a dignity in labour by catering to the
needs of a bigger world that passes them by ~ something they never
enjoyed ‘at home’. sun narin reports
ASK any Kolkatan who might have boasted about the serenity of his city
back in the 1960s and he’d tell you that it’s now nothing short of
bursting at the seams, not to forget the lack of pedestrian walkways,
basic amenities — despite the highrise boom and the resultant
denudation of spacious avenues. On the flip side, though, Kolkata
provides succour for a host of migrants from across the country —
Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand in particular — who have
discovered a dignity in labour by catering to the needs of a bigger
world that passes them by, something they never enjoyed “at home”.

Nearly 10 years ago, Ramkumar Shaw moved to Kolkata from his native
Bihar with his two sons and a daughter. He and his wife had been
peasants. He sells South Indian food from a small establishment in
bustling Lenin Sarani and admits he has a clientele that keeps him
busy. “I am happy here,” says the 45-year-old. “The work is good for
me and Kolkata is good for my children’s study and future.” He earns
around Rs 2,000 a day, which results in a profit of between Rs 350-500
after overheads are taken care of.

Since his children are in school, he can least afford to count his blessings. He pays Rs 1,200 a month
as rent for an accommodation near New Market, where he stays with his
family and two workers.
“Sometimes I have problems because business isn’t good when I have to
close shop on bandh days, but I cannot complain.” He had no plans to
return to Bihar. “Why I should go back? I have the facilities here. I
do not know what I would do over there. How would my children go to
study at a good school?”
Kolkata in recent years has grown to acquire a population of some 15
million because of the mass migration from other states and remote
villages in West Bengal. The reasons for this migration, as per the
Census, have been classified into seven broad groups —
work/employment, business, education, marriage, runaways, family
groups, etc. Most migrants in the city work in the unorganised sector
in unskilled or low-paid jobs — food vendors, hawkers, waiters,
taxi-drivers, construction workers, rickshaw-drivers, nursemaids,
housemaids, cooks in restaurants, even streetside barbers.
Occupying a one square-metre of pavement space on bustling AJC Bose
Road is Ram Bharosa Thakur, now 65 years old. He has been cutting hair
here for nearly 45 years since he moved from Bihar. 

“I live here alone, without any support. I am here to earn money for my family back
home,” he said. But, no, he does not face any difficulties. “I am
happy to live here and earn money to send to my family.” He manages
between Rs 3,000-4,000 a month, keeps a portion for his own needs and
sends his family the rest. “I try to save money. I spend only Rs 20-30
each day for my food.”
Shaquat Ali is from Jharkhand and works as a waiter in a restaurant.
He’s been in the city for about four months now and says, “I earn more
than Rs 4,000 a month. I send most of the money to my wife and family
in Jharkhand.

I am always saving. I like living here. I feel free. I
am happy and earn more money. I wouldn’t know what to do in
Jharkhand,” said the 24-year-old.
The restaurant’s proprietor, Bashir Mohamman, said he employed 10
waiters who were all migrants from Bihar, Jharkand and North Bengal,
places where there is a lack of employment opportunities. “Everything
in Kolkata is cheap so most (people from there) want to live and work
here,” he said.
He did admit, though, that employment in Kolkata was “limited” for
migrants. “They are all happy because they can earn money and send
something to their families. But after only a couple months they stop
working and go back.”
According to a study by the Confederation of Indian Industries and
Ernst and Young, titled “Roadmap for Successful Public-Private
Partnership in Infrastructure”, one of the greatest threats to
industrialisation in Bengal is the largescale migration of its
workforce to other states because of a lack of opportunity. The study
said Kolkata did not draw in people from rural areas by offering them
a better quality of life. As in any other Indian city, migrants found
poverty in Kolkata as severe and dehumanising as in the villages, but
were offered a relatively quick opportunity of earning through
placement in the urban economy. But these migrants would finally move
on to other states with a higher per capita income, better wages and
more opportunities.

At the same time, rickshaw-pullers, construction workers and those
engaged in other “hard-living jobs” live from hand to mouth. They
don’t have shelters, sleep on pavements. Researcher M Christiensen,
writing on Kolkata in the Encyclopaedia of Homelessness (Vol 1, 2004)
said there were five million people living on the streets or in
cardboard/bamboo makeshift shelters who had not been counted. “And up
to a half of all Kolkatan families live in just one room (some live
four families to a room, each family having just a chowki or cot to

Pintu Maity of the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee in Kolkata, whose
work concerns sex workers, said, “Most of the sex workers are migrants
from districts in West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.”
And all of them were highly susceptible to disease, given the poverty
and hard times, he added.

Largescale migration to Kolkata in search of work had a negative
impact, said Sourav Sannigrahi, secretary, Affection Society for Human
Advancement. The consequences were an overcrowded city, a deficiency
in the labour in neighbouring states, traffic jams, new slum areas,
unemployment, no tracking between source and destination, disorder,
chaos and many other social ills. “They have no choice but to come to
Kolkata to search for jobs and a livelihood. Poverty and poor
infrastructural facilities at the source locations are the major
reasons for migration,” he said.
Asha wants the government to create a better environment, promote an
urban-rural link and increase job opportunities for migrants. At the
same time, it should also adopt proper measures to curb migration to
To look on the bright side, Kolkata has come a long, if hard, way from
Rudyard Kipling’s description of a “City of Dreadful Night”. There
have been remarkable expansion in certain areas, including real
estate, information technology and retail trade.

Recently, PrimeMinister Manmohan Singh said the time had come to build on this great civilisational heritage and “pool all our wisdom, knowledge and
experience to revitalise West Bengal’s economy, polity and society so
as to scale new heights of human endeavour and achievement in the
service of the people of West Bengal and India as a whole. I sincerely
believe a new sun is rising on our East, and Kolkata can once again
regain its glory as India’s window to Asia”.

CAMBODIA-THAILAND: Men trafficked into “slavery” at sea

This is another article from IRIN about the Cambodian man working on the fishing boat in Thailand.

PHNOM PENH, 29 August 2011 (IRIN) – Taing Ky* and his cousin were told they would be gardeners in Thailand, but instead they were forced to work on Thai fishing boats.

Each year, hundreds of Cambodian men, many impoverished farmers, are lured from their homes with the promise of better-paying jobs in Thailand, only to find themselves on Thai fishing boats plying the waters of the South China Sea.

“We were told we would earn good money,” Taing Ky, 37, a father-of-five from Cambodia’s Kampot Province, about 200km southwest of Phnom Penh, told IRIN. After six months, they managed to escape while the boat was offloading on Benjina island in northern Indonesia. There they were picked up by local authorities.

Thousands of Cambodian men are now believed to be working against their will in exploitative working conditions on long-haul trawlers well beyond the reach of law enforcement agencies, and often alongside Burmese men.

“It’s slavery. There’s no other way to describe it,” Lim Tith, national project coordinator for the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP), told IRIN.

Thousands exploited

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), about 125,000 Cambodians are registered as working legally in Thailand, including more than 25,000 in the fishing sector.

But with formal migration costs becoming prohibitive and limited economic opportunities for Cambodians at home, it is widely believed the number of undocumented Cambodians in Thailand is significantly higher; many are trafficked.

Of the 89,096 Cambodians deported from Thailand in 2009 for illegal migration, more than 20,000 (23 percent) were reportedly trafficked, according to a 2010 UNIAP Human Trafficking Sentinel Surveillance.

And while about 31 percent of Cambodian fishermen deported from Thailand reported being trafficked, those on fishing boats far from Thai shores for up to a year at a time are more difficult to track and regularly drop off the radar.

“This is a big problem, but the cases we actually receive are really just the tip of the iceberg,” said Lim Tith. “The true number of men being trafficked in this manner is much higher.”

In addition, the problem appears to be shifting from Malaysia to Indonesian waters, where more and more men are now being reported, 25 this year alone, he said.


Those lucky enough to escape report 20-hour work days, food deprivation, regular beatings and threats at the hands of the crew, many of whom are armed.

“The captain had a gun. We had no choice but to work,” said one survivor.

So bad are conditions that those deemed expendable are tossed overboard.

“Many of these men have been badly traumatized by what’s happened to them,” Mom Sok Char, programme manager for Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW), a local NGO and one of the first to monitor the trafficking of men, explained. “After months of forced labour, that’s understandable.”

Culturally, most men do not seek psychological support, he said, making follow-up and adjustment back into the community particularly difficult.

“More and more men are falling victim and this is a genuine concern of the Cambodian government,” San Arun, chairwoman of the Cambodian Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative Against Trafficking (COMMIT) taskforce, agreed. “It’s not just women and children any more,” she said, calling for greater regional cooperation on trafficking.

Thai action urged

Earlier this month, the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, called on the Thai government to “do more to combat human trafficking effectively and protect the rights of migrant workers who are increasingly vulnerable to forced and exploitative labour.

“Thailand faces significant challenges as a source, transit and destination country,” said the UN expert at the end of her 12-day mission to the country.

“The trend of trafficking for forced labour is growing in scale in the agricultural, construction and fishing industries,” she said.

While commending the Thai government with the enactment of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2008, she warned that the implementation and enforcement of the law remained “weak and fragmented”, often hampered by corruption, especially among low-cadre law enforcement officers at provincial and local levels.

“Thailand must do more to combat human trafficking effectively,” Ezeilo concluded.

Thai authorities say there is little they can do about the trafficked Cambodians working on Thai fishing boats, particularly when the alleged crimes occurred outside Thai waters, if they do not report it.

According to UNIAP, most of the deportees who were exploited choose not to report their cases due to fear of their broker, employer, or the police; a lack of understanding of their rights; and/or inability to speak Thai.

*not his real name


Old Street Barber Struggles to live in the city for nearly 45 years.

By Sun Narin

With a lot of people walking forwards and backwards adjacent to traveling of the vehicles, a one-meter jaywalking path along AJC Bose road stands an old-aged street barber’s shelter. Mr Ram Bhrosa Thakur, is now 65 years old, has been working as the barber in Kolkata for nearly 45 years since he moved from Bihar state.

“I am living here alone without any support from others. I am here to find money for my family in Bihar,” he said. However, he does not face any difficulties living alone in Kolkata.

“I am happy to live here and can earn money to send to my family,” he said. Living alone in Kolkata, Mr Ram Bhrosa can earn average from 3000 to 4000 Rupees per month. He divides his earnings for the remittance to the family in Bihar, renting house, and daily consumption and food.

“I send around 2000 Rupees to my family every month and 1000 Rupees on the house, and the rest I spend on food,” he said. “I try to save money. I spend only from 20 to 30 Rupees for my food per day,” he said.

Ram Bhrosa was a peasant when he lived in Bihar. He saw the hair cutting and then he tried to do and he knows how to cut until now. Due to his poor family living condition, he decided to migrate to work in Kolkata as the barber. He has to support 5-member family in Bihar including his wife, children and grand children.

Living here for ages, he has become accustomed to living here alone with the struggling life. However, he is still concerned about his illness. He had the operation on his stomach for 15 years and it has become his daily illness for ages.

“When I am sick, I go to Bihar to let my family take care of me,” he said. When I recover, I come back to Kolkata to work,” he adds.

He expressed that his old age and illness have become the shadow on his life and his concerns in the future. “If I stop working, how can my family in Bihar survive. I am afraid that one day I cannot work any more,” he said.

Jaywalking in Kokata city has become for the business of middle-aged people for hair cutting, mustache and beard shaving.

“I don’t have plan to go back to Bihar because I have a job that can feed my life here and family’s in Bihar,” said Mr Ram Bhrosa.

Plea for Safety of Indians in Malaysia

sun narin
KOLKATA, 28 AUG:Human rights groups have called on the Indian government to take action to guarantee the safety of Indian workers in Malaysia. According to some estimates, there are 1.5 lakh Indians at present working in Malaysia.
The groups raised the issue after a Malaysian workers’ rights group asked Cambodia to curtail the flow of workers to Malaysia because of increasing levels of abuse and exploitation of Cambodian domestic workers. They claim that many workers are forced to work like slaves.

Human rights groups said that the Indian government should reconsider a March proposal by the Malaysian government to recruit 45,000 Indian workers to bridge the shortfall of employees in various sectors.

Mr Suhas Chakma, the director of the Asian Centre for Human Rights in India, said, “The Indian government must note the possibility of Indian workers being subjected to serious human rights violations in Malaysia.” He recommended that the Indian and Malaysian governments sign an agreement to verify the credentials of companies hiring Indian workers and make a list of Indian workers, who have been issued a visa, available. Workers from Cambodia, India, Thailand, Vietnam and Sri Lanka head to Malaysia in search of work. A string of abuse cases, some of which resulted in deaths, led Indonesia to stop Indonesian women from working in Malaysia in 2009. The number of foreign maids in the country has fallen from 280,000 three years ago, to around 230,000 at present. Approximately 50,000 of these maids are Cambodian, and 30,000 of them arrived this year.

Earlier this month, the Indian government helped 17 Indians who had been harassed in Malaysia. “My boss hit me with a chair and forces me to sleep on a cement floor, without a mattress or blanket,” says 45-year-old cook Boominathan in one of the reports filed by a human rights group.
Mr Reni Ayline, national coordinator at the National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations, said that the government should closely monitor the issue. “Malaysia does not have proper rules and regulations to tackle such cases of abuse and exploitation. Our government is not aware of these things,” he said.

Mrs Irene Fernandez, executive director of Malaysian labour rights group Tenaganita, said in a statement, “There has been an increase in the number of human trafficking cases and the government remains complicit. Its unwillingness to address the human rights issues of domestic workers has deepened, effectively turning them into slaves.”

According to Tenaganita’s data, 56 per cent of the cases they deal with involve physical abuse, 26 per cent deal with sexual abuse, 25 per cent involve cases of malnourishment and 42 per cent involve workers who are forced to maintain two jobs.
The governments of India and Malaysia signed an agreement in 2009 to cooperate in employment matters and a joint working group has been established to discuss and resolve all serious issues. The government of India has also proposed that the Malaysian government should start a contributory social security pension and draft an employment contract.
The two sides have agreed in principle that the passports may be kept by Indian workers themselves, instead of being held by an employer, according to a statement by the Ministry of External Affairs. An official said, “Certain rules and regulations to protect Indian workers in Malaysia and look after their  welfare and safety are in place.”

Cuba announces to support Cambodia’s candidacy for UNSC seat: ambassador

08 / 27 / 2011 2011-08-25 21:35:26. PHNOM PENH, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) — Cuba will support Cambodia for the post of a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in 2013 and 2014 mandate, the outgoing ambassador of Cuba to Cambodia Gilda Lopez Armenteros said Thursday.

The ambassador said so during a farewell call on the President of Cambodian National Assembly Heng Samrin.

The vote for the non-permanent members of the UNSC will be held in 2012.

Cambodia has been seeking supports from other countries for the post because since the country became a member of the United Nations in December, 1955, it has never had any post in this body.

Meanwhile, Heng Samrin thanked Cuba for the support and said the diplomatic, social, economic, cultural, and educational relations between Cambodia and Cuba have been strengthened and expanded closer from day to day.

Earlier last month, the visiting French Prime Minister Francois Fillon and the outgoing ambassador of Spain to Cambodia Mariano Alonso Buron has also announced their supports for Cambodia’s candidacy as a non-permanent member of the UNSC.
Editor: Wang Guanqun
Read more:
Original article here!

Too much of Facebook is injurious to health

Teenagers who regularly use social networking site are much more likely to drink, smoke and use marijuana, according to a new study from Columbia University, USA.

The study of 1000 American teenagers aged between 12 and 17 years found that those who used such sites daily were five times more likely to smoke tobacco than those who did not.  Similarly, they are three times more likely to drink alcohol and twice as likely to use marijuana. The poll also found that 70 percent of those interviewed said they used social networking sites on a typical day, while 30 percent did not, the Daily Telegraph, London, reported. One of the main reasons for going on such sites, besides actually communicating with friends, is to keep tabs on peers by looking at their photographs. But the study found that pictures of teenagers “drunk, passed out, or using drugs on Facebook, and other sites” were “rampant”.

One-China Policy Benefits Cambodia

By Sun Narin

Recently, China has agreed to lend $US195 million to Cambodia so it can buy Chinese military helicopters, in addition to some 29 agreements signed by the two countries. China last year donated more than 250 jeeps, trucks and ambulances to Cambodia’s army after the United States cancelled plans to provide it with 200 vehicles, in response to the government sending 20 ethnic minority Uighur asylum-seekers back to China in 2009.

One-China policy in Cambodia has lead China to flow a tremendous amount of investment and assistance in the country.

Today, China tops the list of countries in terms of foreign direct investment, the term for long-term economic participation, despite a significant drop from US$4.48 billion invested in 2008 to $930 million in 2009, according to statistics from the Council for the Development of Cambodia. In addition, China has become the biggest international aid in Cambodia both grant and soft loan.

In return, Cambodia’s government has always agreed on the investment of China. The government provides a lot of land concession to China’s investors.

Since the famed Chinese diplomat Zhou Daguan made his well-documented trips to Cambodia late in the 13th century, Cambodia and China have maintained bittersweet relations, with China often taking the upper hand.

But while Chinese money has made many commercial projects in the Kingdom possible, the resulting power this gives these firms in Cambodia’s economy has sceptics concerned over Beijing’s political and commercial influence.

Son Chhay, an opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker, told Lift that China’s investors use economic promises to gain political clout in Cambodia, and never consider the adverse impacts of their investments on the developing country.

He said that, in reality, Chinese investments damage the Kingdom’s environment and fail to generate sustainable employment for the country’s labour force.

“Chinese investors are aggressive businesspeople who capitalise on Cambodia,” he said. “They are given special rights by the government”, which “invariably agrees with what [Chinese businesses] want”.

Rather than develop the Kingdom’s private sector, Son Chhay said that huge Chinese investments smother the efforts of local businesspeople, who are unable to compete with these bigger, better-funded competitors, which undercut them with lower prices.

“If the government doesn’t take action and improve their management of laws and principles, Cambodia will lose its current resources and there will be no reason for other people to invest in the country.”

At the same time, Cambodia has started to forge relations with the closed allied countries with China.  Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Spokesman Mr Koy Koung Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Spokesman Mr Koy Koung says that Cambodia, which is following one-China policy, is opening the consulate in Lahore, the second largest city in Pakistan, to establish the relations and cooperation on the diplomacy and trade between both countries.

He said: “Cambodia sees the potential of Pakistan and then the relations will strengthen and develop the trade, investment and tourism.”

He adds that Cambodia is the independent and neutral country, which is not the coalition state of other countries. “It is not related to China’s clout in Cambodia. It is the country’s decision to side with those countries,” he said.

It is noticeable that Cambodia, recently, has started to forge the relations with the closed allied countries with China. Last month, North Korea and Cambodia has agreed to exchange the business while North Korea is wishing for rice import from Cambodia. In August 2010, leaders from Iran and Cambodia met and discussed the relations while Iran was under the world’s sanctions.

However, Cambodian critics say that Cambodia has tendency to start the relations with the countries, which are against the United States, but are intimate friends to China.

Mr Yim Sovann, the Sam Rainsy Opposition Party Spokesman in Cambodia said that everything is dependent on the country’s government to start the relations with those countries. However, he says that the government has to make sure that the relations will benefit the nation and people, and urge those countries to respect human rights, democracy and people’s benefits.

Cambodian critics say that Cambodia has tendency to forge the relations with the countries, which are against the United States, but is closed friend to China.

Last month, North Korea and Cambodia has agreed to exchange the business while North Korea is wishing for rice import from Cambodia. In August 2010, leaders from Iran and Cambodia met and discussed the relations while Iran is under the world’s sanctions.

Mr Son Chhay, the Kingdom’s opposition Sam Rainsy Party’s lawmaker, raised the two reasons that North Korea started forging relations with Cambodia: first North Korea sees the noticeable relations between Cambodia and South Korea, which reflects the concerns of its loneliness and second, the country has been facing the extreme shortage of rice and they want low-price rice from Cambodia with the exchange of something else.