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Report of the Two Day Seminar
Through the Prism of Labour: Gender and Distress Migration in Contemporary India Back

A two day seminar titled “Through the Prism of Labour: Gender and Distress Migration in Contemporary India” was co-hosted by Labour & Migration Unit and Women’s Unit at Indian Social Institute, Bangalore on 19th and 20th July 2017. The seminar explored the affiliating themes of Gender and Labour from diverse perspectives of academics and activism. It witnessed ten paper presentations peppered with panel discussion and a guest lecture. The seminar commenced with a welcome address by Dr Selvaraj Arulnathan, Director at ISI Bangalore, who expatiated on the notion of ‘migration’ and the reasons for it in contemporary times. Followed by this, Dr George Pattery, President, Governing Body of ISI Bangalore, addressed the audience and briefed them on the pertinence of the theme of the seminar. Thereafter, the keynote speaker Prof Neetha N from Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi, spoke on the steady decline of women’s participation in employment in formal and informal sector over the years. She substantiated her argument with a statistical analysis and concluded her session with a reference to the contemporary neoliberal era and women’s status in it.

The seminar was divided into multiple themes that informed sessions of paper presentations and it began by focusing on the theme of Repercussions of Displacement on Women in Northern India. The presenters, Ms Alma Grace Barla and Mr Kapil Sharma, rigorously analysed the predicament of women post migration from the hills in North India, in their respective papers. The second session explored the theme of Labour and Sexual Minorities wherein the presenters documented the experience of the transgenders and sex workers and persuasively argued that their work should receive legal recognition as work.

Day one ended with a panel discussion on Politics of Gender and Labour: Limitations and Possibilities and had panelists, Ms Darshana Mitra and Ms Brinda Adige, from the domain of law and activism respectively. The session was moderated by Dr Ambrose Pinto, Principal St. Aloysius College, and Bangalore who steered the session very intelligently giving incisive insights.

Day two continued with paper presentations and the first presenter for the day, Dr John Mohan Razu, captured the shift in the contours of labour post liberalization, privatization and globalization. His presentation was followed by a talk by Dr A Suneetha, Senior fellow and Coordinator at Anveshi: Research Centre for Women’s Studies. Her talk was titled “Is a Woman’s Place at Home?: Sexual Division of Labour in the Economy” in which she argued that labour was not only gendered but demeaning too, in case of women. Instead of liberating them, division of labour in the present economy has stereotyped them even more. The theme for the next session was Interstate Migration which had two presentations by Mr Ansari P A and Fr. P.O. Martin in which they discussed the impact of the displacement by focusing on some case studies. The last session concentrated on the theme of Labour and Migrant Working Women in which the presenters Mr Prasad R and Dr Chanamma Kambara, took up specific studies of migrant women following interstate migration. One of the pinnacles of the seminar was the valedictory address by Prof Abdul Aziz, a famed academic as well as activist. He spoke on the nature of migration and chronicled the reasons and types of distress migration. His address was a very coherent one in which he knit together all kinds of migration in domestic as well as international contexts. He presented various models of labour and advocated that they need be adopted in the contemporary era to address the problem of distress migration. The two day seminar concluded with vote of thanks by Mr Richard Gonsalves, Program Manager in Labour & Migration Unit, ISI Bangalore in which he acknowledged the role of each and every individual associated with the seminar.

Sharda Sharma,
Coordinator, Women’s Unit