According to the reports of Planning Commission of India, cities contribute about 63% of country’s GDP and ironically one-third of population of an average city lives in slums. It is strange that in most cities though the voting percentages of the urban poor sections is higher than the middle and the upper-middle classes, unfortunately their issues and problems largely remain politically and administratively neglected. In the light of upcoming assembly elections, Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) and Forum for Informal Urban Poor Workers (FIUPW) have collectively made an attempt to highlight the key issues of the urban informal workforce and raise some critical demands for their betterment in the form of an election manifesto. (For detailed manifesto kindly check the link)
This is a sincere effort to put forth and bring to light their issues for the consideration of political parties with a request to include them in their respective election manifestos. All the recommendations in this document have been made after multilevel in-depth discussions and in close collaboration with the representatives and groups of informal workers.
In light of the above, PRIA and FIUPW organized ‘Assembly of Informal Urban Workers’ at ‘The Seminar Hall, Constitution Club of India’, New Delhi, on 10th October, 2013. The sole objective of the Assembly was to present the manifesto to political parties contesting the upcoming Assembly elections. More than 250 participants were there to attend democratic assembly. Present crowd had mixed composition of individuals from community, federations, associations, NGOs, civil society and political parties. Indeed it was great platform to share issues, needs, problems and expectations of informal workers. Eminent political leaders Mr. Prashant Bhushan (AAP), Mr. Anurag Saxena CPI (M), Mr. Dhirendra Sharma (CPI) and Mr. Anand Sahu (BJP) were there to address public queries.
All political representatives agreed on note that construction workers, domestic workers, workers in farmhouses, hawkers and manual labourers need special attention because of their pitiable socio-economic condition. They also reassured they will support in the workers’ struggle for survival and expresses solidarity with the informal workers in the fight for their rights.
Overall, politicians representing various political parties across the spectrum had expressed their support and solidarity to the issues and concerns emerging in the assembly of informal workers. Some of them wished to incorporate demands into their manifestos, while the others highlighted the grim realities marring the informal sector in India and expressed their solidarity with the workers in the fight for their rights.
The dialogue between people and politicians was a success as two-way/bottom-up communication was established. Issues concerning the day to day lives of informal workers were taken into cognizance by their leaders and their redressal was ensured.
Even though it is too early to declare this assembly as successful – the political parties have shown a positive response and have assured to extend all possible support to address the issues, as soon as possible. But it was indeed a democratic attempt to raise voices of informal settlers.