I may not be the right person to give my personal bias, But I understand it is enough to let you think differently. There is a part of the culture/society who we consider to be Subaltern voices. Subaltern voice is a term used to describe the people with a muted voice. They are not dumb, but their voices were not considered to any importance. It signifies the harsh reality of society. This public gets neglected on various grounds just because they have some past or did not have a collective existence in the community.
Who we consider to be subaltern?
Maybe the part of the culture that neglected after the creation of social structure? In the ancient era, people that come under the untouchable (outcaste, out of caste) part of the social caste pyramid were subaltern voices. Not only in the past but in present people from that section were forced to become a subaltern voice.
Let’s take an example; our current caste system has a fair large share of the population who belongs to DENOTIFIED TRIBES. Ever heard of it before? Maybe No, these tribes had an image of “criminal tribe.” Various pieces of legislation in India during British rule since the 1870s were collectively called the Criminal Tribes Act (CTA). By designating them as repeat offenders, they criminalised whole societies. Under these acts, the Government systematically registered ethnic or social groups in India that were described as “addicted to the systematic commission of non-bailable offences” such as theft.
Since they were defined as “typically criminal,” limitations were often placed on their movements. Adult male members of those classes were required to report to the local police on a weekly basis. This act states around 100+ tribes After decades of facing horrors of this racial Act, they were denotified by the Government of independent India on August 31, 1952. Till date, these people are considered a threat to our society. The situation of these people was so dire that the UN had to intervene (2007, repeal Habitual Offenders Act (1952)) in this matter.
Various case studies strengthen the argument of molestation, violation of human rights, and the threat to social security. Census for this part of the population is yet not available. The Government had been trying to come up with a survey that concerned these groups. Considering the fact, most of us never had met someone who has a tag of “CRIMINAL” from their birth. It is strange right, a baby who is yet to be born has a label of a CRIMINAL. Due to a terrible past, this part of the society had been dragged for no reason. Some of us might have met them, he/she could be our Gardner, kaamvala/kaamvali, driver. The shade of society that had blended so well that we haven’t noticed. Faces that we see regularly may have an untold story to be heard.
Now let’s draw attention to the faces that we know but never had a collective voice. Migrant Labourers, who contribute in more than 50% of India’s GDP, and constitutes around 80% of the informal sector. The notion of Migrant labours came from the pre-colonial period, to give a hand in work these people go beyond their native place. Due to various reasons, these people face negligence by Government, Political groups and by us.
Most farmworkers, small and marginal farmers, do not get enough work during the off-season, so they migrate from geographical areas of inadequate food and limited resources, to areas of job oppotunities.. We can therefore say those farmworkers and other workers migrate for part-time work or seasonal types of jobs from drought-prone sites to irrigated and industrially developed regions. There are Government organisations that are responsible for planning against these natural calamities.
Yet, nothing changes. As per the most recent 2011 census, the number of internal migrants in India was 450 million. This is a 45 % improvement over the 309 million reported in 2001. This much exceeds the 18 % population growth rate over the years 2001-2011. Internal migrants rose from 30% in 2001 to 37% in 2011 as a proportion of the population.
There is a lack of comprehensive and consolidated data about the migrant labourers. When trying to understand the current situation of migrant labourers, this becomes a huge roadblock. A lot of inference has drawn from surveys and case studies, which are far and few and inconsistent in their content. As far as the Government is concerned, critical analysis/brainstorming of countermeasures to an emergency does not address rural to urban migrants. During the past few months, The plight of the migrant workers has been exposed to the bones by the COVID 19 pandemic. Failure of Government, government policies and bureaucracy have brought to the front. The problems of the migrant labourers are both large in number and huge in magnitude. Yet they had no option but to sustain these situations.
Faces that had a contribution in almost a foundational step from creating a civil society, to reap the crops, had become a SUBALTERN VOICE.
How could we become the VOICE of SUBALTERN?
Only spreading awareness is not enough; writing about them makes me anxious, that I might not bring the change what they desire. . . But I might be able to give a VOICE for them.