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Monday, February 6, 2023

Opinion : The discourse of ‘Precariat Struggle’ in world democracy

During the 1970s, the idea behind the neo-liberal strategies was the development of flexible labour-market. The central plank behind neo-liberalism was the maximum competition and allowing the hyper-economic market growth in all aspects of people’s lives.

This essentially gave the rise of a global ‘precariat,’ highlighted by British economist Guy Standing as the newly emerging social class. They are fundamentally the excluded vulnerable section of the society, indulged in all types of the labour market, providing ad-hoc or temporary assistance, used by party-politics, etc. They all seemed to be half-employed, lack social security, forming a new dangerous class created due to neoliberal capitalism.

The Precariat promotes the current crisis on socio-economic issues, particularly on education, to maintain minimum equal standards of living, engaging both rural and urban class in employment, defeating all forms of under-representation, or underemployment. The disorganized education system and ineffective socio-economic policies and practices promote contemporary concepts of hyper-marginalization. Worsen during the times of epidemics worldwide.

The disintegrated youth-cluster and disproportionate precariousness among the people restraint many of them in realizing their Individual Social Responsibility. Even if they recognize they could merely act on limited resources availability. With specific reference to Indian democracy and on the occasion of Labor Day, this detailed article explores the struggles and cases of ‘precariat’ ‘middle-income’ and ‘lower-income’ dissent voices covering broader sections of educational and employment crisis. These people suffer from psychological depression due to inaccessible educational plans, job loss, or job security. This damage to human dignity and persistent pain develops permanent demoralization to reciprocate against the government’s ineffective actions.

Who is a Precariat?

A class or section is always segregated in terms of social groups. A handful of people at the top called elite, the wealthiest of all in the world. Then comes the ‘salariat,’ a fully employed class, enjoying health facilities, pension benefits, etc. Followed by the ‘proficients’ and ‘technicians,’ usually defined as intellectual with skills and experience. Lower to this is what the traditional sense of working-class called ‘proletariat.’ Above to the proletariat class lies the middle-class or young ‘precariat’ incoherent with permanent socio-economic surroundings. The struggle for power and satisfying material gains has disturbed millions of lives, unknowingly dislocate young middle-class students and labourers’ Precariat’ demeaning their ethnic and cultural identities in metropolitan set-ups. They look like the salariat class or working class of people but unsecured existence, discontent, temporal uniqueness, and remain with unequal socio-economic status in the society. As they go through a series of regular ‘Migration’ and ‘Marginalization,’ both of which are the inevitable fact of modernization? This instability and insecurity can cause maximum damage to human psychology in the age of hyper-nationalism and hyper-globalization in a democratic system.

Rural or urban Precariat or solely on caste-based?

We can further subdivide the Precariat within the middle-income group mainly into two forms, the rural or urban Precariat or solely on caste-based variations. Usually, it is impossible to give a generic definition or divide them accordingly, due to their heterogeneity; and scattered groups across regions. Only the intention or demonstrations to restore their socio-economic elements can be homogenous.

Precariat in developing world

In major developing nations, the Precariat can be divided into an educated ‘student class’ having exposure to education, intellect, and conscience. The other side is the ‘uneducated precariat class’ with no institutional knowledge. They are more or less the same as the ‘proletariat’ working or labour class with temporary job security and an uncertain standard of living. The only homogeneity found among these two classes is the consciousness to revoke for their existence, constant migration to secure human occupation, and unevenness in their lifestyle with the mainstream elite.

Precariat Struggle and Movements in Democracy: Educated and Uneducated

The young students and social activists in the Milan city of Italy marched the streets on May 1, 2001, to protest on the occasion of Labor Day, also recorded as an alternative May Day protest. And by 2005, hundreds and thousands of young people got captivated with the intentions for free migration, and a universal basic wage-rate aggravating this emerging group of Precariat at the global level, recoded every year.

The agitated and liberal educated class of youth and young icons comprehended this deliberate formation of consistent hierarchy and disagreement between the age-old division, the bourgeoisie, and the proletariat. Different literature added different expression to the growing tension of precarity or precariousness or Precariat. Among them, the seminal works of Pierre Bourdieu, Michel Foucault, Jurgen Habermas, and others are worth mentioning.

A Precariat is struggling with a discontent social status not precisely with the mainstream privileged society but their undervalued position all around the world. A substantial amount of precariat group can be easily identified by those agitating on streets, factories, colleges, etc. giving calls for mass movements, to battle against the disordered state of the society for a standard socio-economic upliftment. Most of them might be oblivious about their ‘precarity.’ They might be inattentive of their equal representation and some combating with the conflict refusing to play the role of a victim in society.

Most economically, politically, and a socially alive section of the society

In a country like India, the youth constitutes 20% of the country’s total population, where only 0.8 percent is in educational institutions. Both the educated and non-educated Precariat in India is dissatisfied and suffers from economic and social imbalances. The Precariat is easy to mobilize may be out of their under-representation, frustration, or energy usually considered as the most economically, politically, and socially alive section of the society, which gets immediate worldwide attention.

Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC)

Following the objectives stated by the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) formed in 1947

“To establish an order of society which is free from hindrances in the way of all-around development of its members, which fosters the growth of human personality in all its aspects and goes to the utmost limit in progressively eliminating social, political, or economic exploitation and inequality, the profit motive in the economic activity, and the antisocial concentration of power in any form.”

First recorded uneducated labour resistance

The first recorded uneducated labour resistance was by the Bhore Ghat workers in 1859 during the Europeans dominated India, where the sub-contractors were late in paying the workers. Subsequently, then onwards series of small disturbances and regular struggles are uncountable. The number of riots, protests, and reported death is undoubtedly shameful. Moreover, the political party integration with labour ideologies did not safeguard their interest in the long-run and complicates their functioning even today.

The protest of middle-status skilled labourers varying in the term ‘of ‘social income ‘or ‘social status’ of Bombay textile mill workers in 1982 was very similar to the protest by the miners in Britain of that period.

The displacement of workers by casual appointees and temporary workers ended up with a dispute at the Maruti Gurgaon plant in 2000-2001. Several cases were witnessed in garment factories and automobile sectors, where workers were revoked their bosses and managers to reinstate minimum wage increase. About 2,000 female auto-electronic workers at Jai Ushin in Manesar in February 2014, invoke pay hike. Followed by this was an event in April and May 2014, where the police dislodged several workers from Napino and Shriram piston factory in Delhi, demanding an increase in standard pay.

Labourers’ protests

In 2010, skilled electronic labourers started a protest in China, and similar cases were found in Bangladesh, where the majority of specialized garments workers and jute mill workers were on hunger-strike for days. We need to reimagine the current status of a daily labourer (skilled or unskilled) when the economic growth of the country is shrinking at a rapid pace alongside the current pandemic.

In 2016 a nation-wide call ‘Bandh’ was realized when several trade unions leaders demanded six hundred and ninety-two rupees as a daily minimum wage for labour. This precariat revolution involved 150 million people, shutting various power stations, state banks, and factories, thereby blocking roads, railways, etc. They fear privatization would bring more options for labour substitution, replacement, and human vulnerability by machines and technologies. They called for standard socio-economic security of their class and an absolute ban on privatizing Indian Railways, Defence industry, and Insurance sector by the BJP government.

The neo-liberal strategy indoctrinated the seeds of hyper-feminism to mobilize the high female labour force. This did enhance their financial conditions by joining corporate and multinational firms in cities. But mostly, the female labour force in unorganized sectors was easy to target for full exploitation in lower wages. It bought high work-loads for women to have inside-out responsibilities in oriental set-ups expected to get it fulfilled by both families and managers in the factories.

A recent incident of the Aganwadi workers demonstrating on streets for establishing pre-primary schools at their child-care centre in Karnataka (which in turn would have given them better prospects and secured employment opportunity) is a new form of endangered women precariat. They are engaged struggling in crippled rural regions, working on already deformed issues like health and child care development.

A similar case was seen in Nepal in 2012 imposing a ban on women migrating to Gulf countries under the age of 30, after a striking instance of Nepali housemaid suicide in Kuwait. These women migrants are attracted by better wages and prospects of a standard of living in advanced and growing economies. This women’s labour class of society is always underpaid and undervalued.

Sex workers

Neglecting one such sector of the sex service workers would be a biased approach toward this marginal section in almost all neighbouring countries. These Precariats are at the threshold of extinction because usually they are considered either as criminals (involved in human trafficking) or a victim (sex as imposed). All laws and schemes have roughly were unable to provide them with equal social status in society. Mainly when we discuss the rehabilitation centre, established not to provide minimum support or supply skills to sex workers but exploitation, torture, and violence.

This is happening in every field of action- political establishments, education sector, industries or factories, and medium and small-scale enterprises. The worst cases are found with temporary work-force in major port cities like Kolkata Mumbai, Kochi dockyards, several aviation companies, chemical factories, and thermal power plant workers battling in cases of collective bargaining and negotiations.

From Gandhi’s Civil Disobedience Movement 1930, till the Quit Movement of 1942 precariat protested against the British Raj for independence and attained its own national identity. This gave a new picture to colonial India fighting for a domestic or a national-based social status introducing democratic ideologies, deflating British-led socio-economic endowments to the Indians.

Soon the end of the ideological based-student politics in the post-independence India turned out to be campus-based youth precariat agitation intending to solve societal, economic, and environmental issues. Indeed, in all ages, institutional educated are aware that the political ideologies and excessive interference of central power would dominate the higher education autonomy in the future.

Thus, rightly witnessed when numerous voices of dissent are being curbed under discriminatory acts and policies with frequent use of sedition charges and other laws. Recently, the UAPA is marked unlawfully used mechanism by many educated apolitical dignitaries considering it to destroy the right to free speech and protest provided by the Indian constitution. It will eventually sabotage the sense of justice in democracy among the educated social activist, young lawyers, and journalists in the country.

The Right to Information (RTI) Act

The Right to Information (RTI) Act bought us closer to transparency in some way and unveiled the distressing arrangement for the Ad-hoc teachers in India. A report claims that 33% of teaching posts in 40 Central Universities are lying vacant. The capital city of India was mostly affected. Many teachers association and organizations collectively protested against the temporary status of teachers, de-regularization in promotion, and limited scope for a pay hike and job insecurity.

The lower middle has a significant and dynamic role to play mainly involved in construction and agriculture activities. The middle middle-class is a little advanced in lifestyle better than the lower. The upper-middle-class in an urban setting is mostly engaged with multinational firms, business process outsourcing (BPO) industries, and emerges as entrepreneurs. A large amount of energetic, active, and innovative youth population is found among these classes.

With an increasingly high number of skilled and technicians in India, MBA and B-Tech graduates are early techno-precariat suffering due to declining employment possibilities in countries like India, Pakistan, Nepal, etc.

Nearly 4.5 lakh graduates applied for Group-D jobs in government services out of survival insecurities. It was also reported that underemployment was the main hurdle to them and not precisely unemployment. But this is predicted to be the unemployment condition in the coming months as the worldwide impact of COVID-19.

A forgotten incident that happened recently in Nov 2019, where 37 para-teachers (mainly the lower-primary and upper-primary teachers) went on hunger strike for nearly two months. They demanded an increase in their pay as they are the backbone of the full-time teaching faculties at the district level. They claimed that the payment is too low; they do not get any medical allowances, as several were unable to afford the basic standard of living and health care. They should get 25,000- 33,000 a month as a fixed salary, of which they were just getting 10,000-13,000 a month, as reported.

Almost all leading authorities gave one such reason for appointing the temporary employee (both the labour class, salariat, and techno-precariat class) that they are easy to handle, more disciplined, and dutiful at the job, out of losing their temporary status. Major developing nations like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are fighting with poverty, unemployment, and unequal distribution of wealth.

What is more painful for this precariat class of people is they are not even partially secured or enjoying benefits such as leave, provident funds, gratuity, housing allowances, minimal holidays, etc. The contractual workers and so-called salariat class are close to the senior managers, often asked to perform a burdensome task which usually a permanent occupant will not touch.

According to Noam Chomsky,

the sub-standard set of social responsibilities of the ‘intellectuals’ in the globalized world has deceased human values in actions.

These technocratic policy formulators and privileged section should change their scientific outlook in establishing long-term visions for justice, peace, equality and overall human freedom instead of defending the eco-political establishments for power, authority and violence everywhere around the world

The degree of precariousness may vary from the nature of work and surroundings. It is exceptionally complicated to measure and record all aspects of Precariat and insecurity in transitional societies. An attempt to highlight many of these relating to the Precariat class discussed by economist Guy Standing.

The longer the pain for youth exclusion, alienation, and isolation from ordinary standard living, the higher is the chances of persistent precariat upheavals against the unequal and indecisive global world. Appropriate planning, rehabilitation programs, and its implementation, along with extensive public participation, would reduce ‘Precariat hyper-marginalization’ and recharge inclusive capacity building for an impartial ecosystem.

Sadaf Khalid
Sadaf Khalid
Pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Administration and a gold medalist from Aligarh Muslim University. Worked as a Policy Analyst at Aam Admi Party policy research cell, New Delhi. A young social activist for People Service Institute, Kolkata, Swasthya Sankalp, Cancer Aid Society, and building youth brigade for child rights awareness, gender sensitization, environmental policies, etc. A contributor to The Eastern Herald.

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