Economic Growth without Inclusion: Structural Labour Discrimination in India


In spite of several decades of impressive economic growth, labour across all sectors in India are overwhelmingly informalised, precarious, overworked and low paid. Temporary migrants from the countryside dominate low-end jobs and they have few labour rights or citizen rights. The worst off are India’s Adivasis and Dalits: the indigenous people and ex-
untouchables that makes up 25% of the population. They work as migrant labour at the bottom of the economy: in agriculture, brick kilns, construction, care work, and in so-called unskilled work in manufacturing and service, and they are discriminated along the lines of caste, tribe, gender and place of origin. At the same time, harsh oppression of Adivasis and
social struggles around land alienation for mining in central India is well documented. The precarious lives of these groups were further hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and India’s country-wide lockdown. This lecture discusses the conditions of labour, and structural discrimination of informalised labour in India. The main focus is on Dalit and Adivasi seasonal labour migrants and their households. It looks at the interplay between the paucity of labour rights and citizen rights, and the trajectories of livelihoods, discrimination and government policies as they are shaping up after Covid-19: will India’s economic growth continue to be without their inclusion?

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