"Same, But Better" Is Designed for Your Inevitable Demise
The business of the 20th century was about 'fitting in' — being a 'cog' in the production value chain. Keep your head down, don't ask questions, do as you are asked and you will be set for your life. Passive complacency was the name of the game.
The business of the 21st century is about mind expanding creativity, imaging a sustainable world by fusing form, function and profit. The 21st century is about competing in a 'flat world'. Technology has flattened the barrier of entry, allowing a new era of competition, where the winning is all about 'imaginative fusion'. Even long-standing brand leaders are exposed to this inevitable risk from new competition that is cropping up everywhere and anywhere.
The game has changed. The game changers who wishes to survive the business landscape of the 21st century will actively create and re-create their business mind for relevance, purpose and profit.
To exist in this 'flat world', commerce is now demanding new mindset, new thinking, and new doing. For this, entrepreneurs and CEOs ought to inculcate a strong, observing mind — a mind that will never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by fear or distrust, and never give way to regretting.
In this new century, the age old competitive dictum — 'same, but better' is the destiny that is bound to lead you to your demise. In this new century, creativity is the mind of your business and relevancy is the beating heart of your brand. "Never feel comfortable where you're now, get stuck, complacent, and stagnate in one spot; be always relevant, dynamic, and multi gifted. This is one of the rules of the 21st C."
Fusion of Commerce and Creativity
Why the product selling companies are no longer selling products?
These brands are in the business of creating and expanding eco-system for the survival of their business and growing their market share. Of course, these are just few of the many examples that are defining trade and commerce in the 21st century.
Here are few examples.
Philips is no longer in the home-lighting business. It has creatively transformed into a “connected business” to improve sustainability, cost of ownership, and creative control by integrating smart applications such as scene personalization, home automation, security services, and sleep quality into its core product." Moreover, this brand is continuously using it's status to leverage generosity and gain relevance in the 21st century market place.
Rolls-Royce, some time ago moved beyond merely selling jet engines to selling engine hours and locking customers in a lifetime service relationship. Now, they are laying down the blueprint for the the next hundred years.
Elevator operators, such as KONE, emphasize the number of floors their products will serve over time, not just their physical products They are well on their way to transform themselves into sustainable city builders.
Thanks to COVID-19, they are now expanding in health and safety brand. No missed opportunities here.
The ride sharing company, Uber partnered with Bell to showed off a second-stage concept of its flying car that both companies swear they will begin testing in 2020. A full-scale model on the CES 2019 floor promised to fly five people at speeds reaching 150 mph. Of course, Bell is an established aircraft developer that makes the propulsion technology behind the V-22 Osprey (the crazy-expensive military helicopter plane thing).
Again, thanks to COVID-19 Uber is now well positioned to highlight another aspect of it's brand — UberEats. The brand was proactive and had mapped out various aspects of it's offering under different scene settings when the going was good.
Why the digital service companies are going beyond 'Freeium' and 'Premium' modes of conducting business? How, they are branching out into selling products and making 'sustainability' relevant in their business model?
These brands are being driven by the urge to try something new and stay relevant in the minds of their clients. They are charting out unexplored routes, having no reason to hope for success, but merely being willing to risk the experiment of finding whether the expansion they seek lies there.
Creative Mindset — Revitalize Rural Economy — The Business of Sustainability
San Francisco based company, Airbnb, an online rental platform, originally partnered with the Italian city of Civita in 2016, and now is partnering with Grottole (via nonprofit Wonder Grottole) to help revitalize the city.
“We will find every way possible to support sustainable tourism, and give visibility to these rural areas,” says Federica Calcaterra, PR Manager at Airbnb Italy. Thanks to COVID-19, they are now how hosting online experiences as people are locked down in their individual residences.
Creative Mindset — Reduce Cost — The Business of Saving the Planet
Embr Wave is the thermostat for your body. Warm up or cool down, as you need it when you when you need it most. Founded at MIT, backed by Bose Ventures & Intel Capital, Embr is also exploring the application of its patented technology in a number of other areas, such as virtual reality, entertainment and non-verbal communication.
Creative Mindset — Reduce Cost — The Business of Using Behaviorial Data
Progressive Insurance’s connected-car devices allow the company to charge drivers according to their driving behavior. Started in 1937, it was the first drive-in claims office, became the first to introduce reduced rates for low-risk drivers, and then transformed the insurance shopping experience by offering comparison rates on the Web.
Creative Mindset — Indulge in Innovative Spaces — The Business of Sub-Conscious Selling
Amazon chose to create Spheres. Not, yet another soaring skyscraper.
The office space that the environment supports a is a sub-concious call to action on doing, thinking and acting in ways that are diiferent from the competition.
"The Spheres are a place where employees can think and work differently surrounded by plants. The Spheres are a result of innovative thinking about the character of a workplace and an extended conversation about what is typically missing from urban offices– a direct link to nature. The Spheres are home to more than 40,000 plants from the cloud forest regions of over 30 countries.
Image source: Wikipedia
Have you wondered why car manufacturers like Tesla open fancy showrooms in shopping malls and prime locations, with a completely transformed customer experience and lifestyle companies, like Apple, builds on the customer experience with open-space concepts, a sprawling Genius Bar, and diverse sales staffs who are not selling. It is all about priming your sub-conscious with their products and services. Read more on how to hack the sub-conscious.
Tracking back in time, yet timeless is the Chrysler Building.
Built in May 1930, after the stock market crash of 1929, it was a beacon of hope for a forward marching towering future. After, almost 90 years, the Chrysler Building is a creative testament on the flow of capital and a creative convergence of mathematical allure and human grit. It is designed to pause your brain and look — really look and visualize the flow of money and markets from the depths of dismay and disillusionment.
Creative Mindset — Pro-active Healthcare — The Business of 'Caring' with Smart Clothing
Nanowear has developed a medical-grade textile, SimpleSense, capable of capturing millions of signals on the skin and giving it the potential to unlock biometric insights to help wide-ranging medical conditions — monitoring patients through the likes of ECG, heart rate variability, respiratory rate, actigraphy, impedance cardiography, thoracic impedance and cardio-phonography to help keep them out of hospital.
Creative Mindset — Fusing Commodity with High Finance — "Opportunity Favors the Most Prepared"
The Swedish startup Konabay, partnered with Barclays' bPay to bring contactless payments to its hybrid watch band — now, that is a clever idea of upgrading the band that goes with the watch. Again, thanks to COVID-19, this brand has now have a market ready product because, they had dared to imagine that the band of the wrist watch should do more than wrapping around your wrist.
Creative Mindset — When the Market is Not Ready
Have you ever wondered why a product, inspite of a massive 'cool' factor fails miserably in the market place?
Simple answer: people do not buy product that they do not understand.
"In 1973, auto executive John DeLorean left General Motors to form the DeLorean Motor Company. After years of production delays, the DeLorean DMC-12 was released in January 1981. The car’s unique design was poorly received, however, and by 1982 less than half of the 7,000 DeLorean units produced had been sold. The DeLorean is widely recognized due to its use as a converted time machine in the “Back to the Future” series. However, the first of these films was released in 1985, far too late to save the ill-fated brand. DeLorean filed for bankruptcy in 1982."
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Signing off with these ending thoughts.
Creativity is about letting go of the certainties and be comfortable with the chaos around you. Creativity is observing what is already there and fusing it with doses of worthy value. Creativity is about unfolding the rhythms of our planet and derive contextual earth technology that drive sustainable local economy. Creativity is about identifying the evolving hard trends and taking note of the creeping soft trends, only to merge them with evolving customer expectations and design accordingly.
Above all, creativity is about caring. Research by Cone Communications, a PR agency for consumer brands, found that 87% of Americans said they would purchase a product because of a company’s alignment on an issue they cared about. It also attracts would-be workers: nearly two-thirds of millennials – the generation that will make up half of all US employees by 2020 – said they take a company’s social and environmental commitments into account when weighing a job offer.
You are competing in a flat world. Just having superior products or services does not cut it any more. A shocking study from the John M. Olin School of Business at Washington University estimates that 40 percent of today’s F500 companies on the S&P 500 will no longer exist in 10 years.
Today’s consumers simply 'do not buy just products or services'—they want more — their purchase decisions revolve around buying into an idea, an experience, something more that taps into their own creativity, curiosity, and their fullest use of their potentialities.
Talk to us about creative implemetation of socio-economic changes.
Creative Solutions Strategist
Social Innovation is the Answer to Natural and Man-Made Disasters
Dominique Lapierre’s City of Joy Kolkata, has put under acid test the four groups of institutional and social actors to show case their investment in Innovation and disaster preparedness.
Centuries Old Hand-Me-Down Policy of the British Raj Reigns Supreme in Independent India
COVID-19 once again proves that after 70 years of independence, we have not innovated the colonial structure of governance that was practiced by British imperial masters for over 200 years of colonial power. Instead of arming the citizens of India with trust and knowledge the Government deploys their police force to effect 'lockdown' and subjugates an entire nation with the age old tactics of fear, chaos, misinformation floating all around and of course, the favorite of the stack — 'divide and rule' — a group parroting the 'one size fits all' global line of thinking without much thought of her diverse reality and deeper humanitarian challenges of those who dare to go about making subsistence living but facing furious 'lathicharge'.
Lack of Flexibility and Creativity Plagues the Governance Mechanism
It has been a blind following like a flock of sheep (as said locally in Kolkata, Gaddalikaprabaha), an idea originated during COVID-19 first in China and then in Italy which has historical antecedents in Pandemic governance in 14th century during black death of 1347-48. Those who dared to honour their local context, capabilities and had confidence in progressive Governance that evolved over time in compliance with their cultural/constitutional practices created their own variants like Japan, New Zealand, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany empowered by their own science-policy dialogue, readiness, constitutional power and implementation. Countries that interface with adaptive and effective governance empowers people and builds trust. Fear tactics dis-empowers people, destroys human capital and social capital.
Planned 'Lockdown' Cripples the Means to Combat the Inevitable Cyclone
Nature is innovating each time.
This time, when Cyclone Amphan attacked on May 20, 2020, nature took over the city streets, as countless trees, debris, poles, electric wires formed an untangled mesh and brought to a halt the functioning of the Kolkata City Municipal Corporation. Technology detecting Amphan provided early signs of it's impending fury. But, the city was under COVID-19 'lockdown'. The public service providers failed to act with necessary preparedness and immediacy. The different arms of the government failed to co-ordinate over past eight years, even after the experience of a milder version Aila which ravaged twelve years back. It also, shows deeper faults in framing of the governance system which is not conscious of their purpose in serving it's own citizens as fellow humans. If the governance system does not learn from failures and successes of it's the past, it gets in the whirlpool of same old mistakes and poor governance with mass societal sufferings.
Make COVID-19 Matter. Kick Start Innovative Intellectual Discourse
Dominant trend among the world of intellectuals is showing a tendency towards finding a refuge in the age old discourse of capitalism vs. socialism. Both Karl Marx and Schumpeter are today relevant but only partially! Each one can explain only one quarter of the story of “Change Agents”. The innovative lens of the 21st century complex social system with multiple shades of diversity in multiple major players is once more being caught up in the binary of state and subject or labour and capital. Unless ideas of people are supported to innovate and implement productive social actions and institutions, no new economic value addition will emerge.
While Marx said it is labour power which transforms the material to add value, Schumpeter put entrepreneur in the fore front who brings in technology, tools for value enhancement. Today's intellectual discourse need to rise beyond the binary of Labour and Man-made Capital. In their own social contexts of 19th and 20th century, they were trying to decipher the next Agent of Change. They were trying to account for contributions in the total cake of value addition of manmade capital and labour power. How fairness can be injected in sharing between the two?
Post COVID-19 Bargain is about Ditching the 'Zero-Sum Game' between two players
The age old debate gets a new life in the context of COVID-19 when economic packages in the name of stimulus cake are being dished out by a third party — the Government. However, the question is, how many innovative ideas will get injected and how fair the distribution is going to be. COVID-19 brings forth an unprecedented situation. Now, Governments all around are holding the full Stimulus cake in hand. Governments do not directly add value in making the cake but act as an enabler of good governance. A share may come back either through tax revenue or through support to sustain their political power. Former is transparent while latter is opaque. So, the 21st century discourse is more complex.
The third ‘change agent’ which neither Marx nor Schumpeter paid a clear attention is the Government. But today Government wants a fair share in the cake. And that, is the invisible virus that is set to plague our society, if we are not mindful of it. The virus is return/retention of political power. The bargaining process gets extremely complicated when it becomes a game of three players. The first lesson of Resource and environmental economics that each undergraduate learns and ponders;— why both market and government fails in allocating resources to drive engagement in building a new institutional arrangement that can deliver change for a larger purpose for common good in a humanistic paradigm.
Owners of big business/capital try to create channels to directly negotiate for give and take with the Government. These 'big boys' fail to come up with effective ways of problem solving, as they have 'pledged their hearts' to the Government. No matter what they do, they are assured of the larger share of stimulus cake. As a result, the citizens suffer, environment gets exploited and civilization faces extinction.
In the 21st century, it is absolutely essential to understand the Natural Laws. Once, we understand it, capital will come with ideas that will foster man-made technology and empowered human beings who are capable and wanting to add economic value. New sectors will emerge delivering services for robust soil, healthy nutrition, pollution-free air and cancer-free water.
The intellectual debate now needs to be at a higher plane to resolve more complex relation among nature , labour, capital, market, government and other institutions which shapes the societal reality. Here, financial stimulus is only a means to achieve a goal of utopia. Real progress can come through new imagination, ideas and capability of the leaders, movers and shakers of change.
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Pandemic Leads to Destruction of Fast Fashion
20th Century Business Model Miserably Fails with the Arrival of the Pandemic
The cat-walk fashion brands depended on cheap women labor from Bangladesh for the last 40 years.
It so happens that Bangladesh is the pollution heaven for the western multinational brands. Overnight, with the emergence of COVID-19 the demand for cheap labor evaporated leaving 2 million women jobless and ~100 million USD order cancellation
Scene Setting for Rapid Economic Growth in Bangladesh
After Independence in 1971 Bangladesh adopted export-led economic growth strategies. With traditional human skill in textile, tailoring and design put Bangladesh in comparative advantage. Extensive financing support through back-to-back Letter-of-Credit added to that. Conscious decision to rebuild the economy focusing on social sector development led to multiple women empowerment programmes. Women’s participation in the labor force increased manifold over time from 4% in 1974 to 35.6% in 2016 and RMG sector employs nearly 4.4 million people, where around 3.5 million workers are female. RMG, accounts for 84% of all exports and contributes to little over 11% to the GDP and have fluctuated between 15%-11% in past five years . This innovative social development led economic progress agenda provided large-scale employment opportunities to underprivileged and vulnerable women and contributed significantly in their economic and social empowerment in Bangladesh. Global Fashion brand got cheap labor.
The Harsh Realities of Re-orienting Economic Growth
Global Lockdown of non-essentials product market devastated the Global Supply chain. Bangladesh Ready Made Garment (RMG) sector faced severe disruption in supply chains since the crisis first erupted in China. Dependency ratio of Bangladesh on China for raw materials and Physical Capital like machinery is very high. These exclusive exportable goods producing manufacturing units had to close or reduce their activities. In addition, consumption demand contracted in the USA and EU, the major export destinations of Bangladesh’s RMG. Many garment retailers and fashion brands from USA and EU cancelled orders and some denied to pay for the ready produce.
Now, is the time to Re-think and Re-Align — Social, Economic and Environmental Policies
The cancellations of globally determined nonessential fashion products orders effected essential livelihood of millions of women workers creating job uncettainty. Global export supply chain lockdown resulted in increased stress and panic and created more risk and vulnerability to the livelihoods of women garment workers. The large number of women workers are not paid fully or fired. Millions of them returned to their villages empty handed without any financial savings and support.
The economic independence which comes from RMG employment also brought multiple benefits nationwide. Bangladesh is leading among many countries with fast declining fertility rate, increase in marriageable age, decision making power. So, while global demand declines how to re-engage these specially skilled women on a new cleaner development path need to be resolved nationally and the climate conversation and SDGs framework can provide future directions. While reopening the RMG sector national policy packages must make private capital investors comply with social security and environmental regulations along with economic recovery plan to secure future growth.
Women Empowerment in Aftermath of COVID19!
Majority of women garment workers are from rural areas with weak social network. They moved to cities. Covid-19 unveiled the injustice and unfair wage and lack of social security structure for them. These women garment workers generally receive low wages and work for long hours and have no financial savings or security to draw on during crisis. They also struggle with migration risk, job safety and certainty, rented housing upon arrival in urban setting. The job losses of the women workers due to Covid-19 will have significant social impact.
With global wave of inward looking future would there be enough jobs for these women in their old work places with physical distancing in practice or would they become nonessential as fashion product demand becomes non essential in global economic downturn and changed future lifestyle? Many argue this can be taken as an opportunity by Bangladesh to create value through domestic demand expanding to regional market led by women going beyond RMG sector alone and diversification of business. Understanding these new changing business opportunities, global trends with national implications are the imperatives for fast growing economy like Bangladesh.
Recovery Package and Global Solidarity Should Invest on Building Trust
The era of Cheap labour is over. Investment in Retraining of women given their historically acquired skills and strong forte in health care service, water service, energy service can make the country recover on sustainable development pathway. They fit into the 2015 SDGs framework well. These three are traditionally women dominated activities in South Asia.
Straighten up fair wage rules globally in global supply chains. Fire incident of 2012 at Tazreen Fashions and collapse of Rana Plaza in 2013 brought in stringent compliance requirements and restrictions on the part of big brands for the RMG sector of Bangladesh. There in came Accord and Alliance. Those who could comply with new ethics in business stayed back and others who could not comply had to stop operation in the sector.
Building trust is at the heart of social capital where the business need to invest.
Innovation Doubles Production
The Birth of a New Concept: Community Water Bank
Policy and Finance are waking up to the need for repositioning Sustainable development goals in aftermath of COVID-19. Looking for local innovation, self sufficiency, to give life to targets and indicators of SDG6 .
Here goes one example of an working model. A real life situation which has high potential for worldwide diffusion to solve local problems.
An introduction of a new brand for sustainable community practice — use water when you need it.
How it works?
1. As a part of the community, you own the right to access water flow 'now'.
2. However, you may not need it 'now'. Water Bank can save your right and help exchange within the community.
3. Someone else with need for 'now' can buy the right or mutually trade the right with you for your future use through water bank service provider.
This community scale environmental enterprise model efficiently manages water use, avoiding exploitation or wasteful use of water in agriculture. The rules for owning rights are defined and allocated by the entrepreneur for a defined time period through deliberative community participation process.
This success story is from Purulia, a water deprived district of West Bengal in India. Ecologically in Purulia water is an invaluable natural capital owing to the rugged terrain and high natural run-off. Water demand has grown to secure food supply from agriculture but not the water supplies. Traditional institution of competitive water extraction from natural water stock and flow need to change as it is unsustainable with changing demand but it does not evolve automatically. No borrowed model can solve local need. There is a clear need for innovation using science and human ingenuity.
3,500 Farmers Benefit from Water Bank
Water Bank by the 'Environmental Service Enterprise' achieved water security for nearly 3500 farmers in 12 villages of Raghunathpur (II) Block through this right-based entrepreneurial water service provision and conservation philosophy. With the available resources in the first phase ten such water-banks using scientifically chosen sites are functioning.
Community, now can meet irrigation demand for dry-land farming, participatory crop cycle planning and water budgeting. Enterprising knowledge is being shared through repetitive interaction giving rise to alternative farming practices like vine-top farming, and integrated fisheries in water banks.
3,500 Farmers Build a Close Loop Eco-System
Agricultural productivity doubled in three years. Farmers can keep their special skill based economic activity growing locally. They do not need to migrate in off season. They can grow second crop through water banking. Responsible natural resource utilization could be ensured through participatory planning of crop cycles and community water budgeting. Technological innovation on low-water-no-chemical farming like SRI, Zero-Till, Organic Farming with Bio-fertilizers and solar-micro-irrigation contributed equally to the incremental production of Paddy, Wheat and Mustard. Moreover, Vine farming on the top of water banks and cage culture of fishes generated revenue, helped compensating the opportunity costs of water banker’s time and knowledge.
Multiple other businesses are helping the economy to thrive. Risk spreading has been done through micro-insurance coverage of farmers and local social capital is growing stronger through the formation of Water Bank Cooperatives facilitated by water bank managers.
No comprise with science! Life cycle analysis through water foot-print estimates followed state of the art methodology of FAO. The introduction of scientifically designed water bank environmental service model has led to on an average 43-47% reduction in waste in irrigation water use. Sharp decline in the gross irrigation need (SNgross) both in summer and winter cropping period is leading to savings in natural capital. Vine topping on the pond surface for shadowing 45-70% of area reduced the evaporation rate by 25% compared to bare ponds.
How much investment is needed?
1. Upfront investment of ~ INR 150,000/- per hectare can support almost 100 farmers
2. A scale of 2.5 to 3 hectare water bank is a sustainable model with ~ 300 farmers
3. Investor gets a net return on investment with a pay-back period of 1.8 years
4. Considering net income flow Internal rate of return worked out to 28%
5. Right based participatory natural resource conservation promote sustainable production, conserve ecosystem services, watersheds for dry-land farming becomes economically viable.
We can replicate this.
How can you get Involved:
An Inward Looking World in the Aftermath of COVOD-19?
When global solidarity fund allocation starts looking for projects, these proven success stories provide ready solution for diffusion. Politically India is promoting idea of localization of supply chain to get out of the pockets of national shame  and reach out to under-served population in post pandemic period. We see the water-bank as a perfect model for community scale operation with small enterprise profitably. Multiple benefits lead to a thriving local economy using locally skilled human capital with sustainable food security. This creates demand for bio-fertilizers, seeds, fish feed and solar-micro-irrigation systems, local ecotourism activities with value added services like camping, fish-angling, bird watching etc. Taken further, agro-industrial activities can emerge from locally grown plants/ forest flowers, medicinal plants and many more.
Dipayan Dey @ South Asian Forum for Environment
COVID-19 Brings in Focus the Peril of Cheap Labour
21st century India is the land of high-tech cheap knowledge workers. Needless to say, she is the darling of mighty tech giants.
But, today we are not talking about them. Today, we will be talking about another set of cheap workers, greasing the urbanising Indian economy — they are called, 'the internal migrants'. Today, thanks to COVID-19, these migrant workers are in the forefront of the battle against COVID-19.
Who are these nameless migrant workers, eking out subsistence existence in this land of high-tech workers?
They are India's veritable labour force. They make physical capital to get life and make money. They run agricultural machinery, grow our food, build our high-rises, builds our roads, works in small and medium scale units which are interwoven in the global supply chain of horizontally inter-connected businesses. In a nutshell, they are the reason why India can produce things at cheaper cost than in many parts of the world. Yet, the development process and political process have so far been unfair to them. They are economically deprived without any security of livelihood. They have been cheated out of their political rights as well.
Glamorous Growth without Basic Social Benefits
COVID-19 brings to limelight how we under-value our human potential economically, socially and politically.
Migration of workers, particularly from village to cities within India, has become the major unacknowledged source of the Indian growth story in the last two decades. They work without any social security benefits. To ensure fairness, it is crucial to expand the reach of their political subjectivity. Several Lok Sabha (Parliament of India) and assembly elections data reveal that many of the migrant workers were the missing voters, who could not make their journeys at the time of elections, or be present during list compilation. Thus, they remain uncounted with their political right and in practical terms, they become disenfranchised. What we ask for, is a simple infrastructure of remote voting, no less, no more.
Defining Human Dignity in the Land of Technology
The hard lesson of COVID-19 — coming face to face and dealing with our national shame.
One of the ways to come out of it is to recognize this problem and have substantive enfranchisement of migrant workers. Empower them to speak in the language of political rights of a dignified citizen. Make the people’s representatives and the political parties to listen to them and consider internal migrants as important as overseas migrants. The Election Commission of India (ECI) has already extended the voting rights to Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), and promised extension of postal ballot voting rights if they are unable to travel to their constituency.
Why can’t this remote voting right be extended to the internal migrants?
One way to achieve this is to implement the postal ballot or some kind of proxy voting-booth in the host-state for the migrant workers. All these will create new decent jobs for cleaning up discrimination and unfairness and to advance the sustainable development agenda. Let us understand, this will only strengthen our social potential. Without a strong social capability society is bound to crack inside out.
We need rules/institutions to build social capability by unleashing potential within the migrant and the peripatetic populations. The Indian Population Census of 2011 estimated that internal migration increased by 45 percent within a decade. A recent survey of 3,018 migrant workers in the construction sector in Delhi and Lucknow reports that 63 per cent of the sample could be termed as “single migrants”, making 2.55 trips each year to their villages, and dividing the year almost equally between various construction sites and the village. More strikingly, over half of them had been into this “circular migration” for close to a decade or so. The survey reveals that these migrant workers dwell in the building sites, manage space on the street, or rent a bed in a squatter colony without any legal status. Asking them to produce documents in support of citizenship in the host city is to disenfranchise them.
20th Century Regulation Fails for the 21st Century Mobile Migrant
“The Inter-state Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act,1979” appears severely inadequate and rarely implemented. Recently, the issue of “remote voting’’ surfaced along with the attempt to link the ECI database with Aadhaar to enable migrant voters to vote remotely. The prior bitter experience of failure to link Aadhaar with the Public distribution system (PDS) makes us believe that any such attempt might further disenfranchise the migrants. There are apprehensions that instances of cancellation of bona fide voter cards might become huge in number. with The excuse might be failure to link the two databases at the time of voting, failure of biometric authentication.
One of the arguments given many a times is that anyone, including the migrant-workers, can always register as a voter in their host constituencies. The rules for constituency change are as follows: one can only be enrolled for voting in her place of residence, and not in a place where she is currently staying. A person cannot claim to remain a voter in her native place just because she owns a house there. In short, individual’s inalienable right to vote is conditioned by a rather strict residency qualification thus favouring a sedentary population.
In India, internal migration of the working class has historically been a “State subject”. The introduction of postal ballot will drive competitive electoral politics of the migrants' "homeland" to these peri-urban construction sites, which in turn, will make the sender states more responsive to their needs, keeping in mind the electoral arithmetic. The migrants’ question can then be understood also through citizenship and not just from the perspective of livelihood.
The horizon of political subjectivity of the migrant workers cannot solely be captured through the lens of either only workplace rights, or just voting rights. The concern here is about empowering citizens through democratic rights.
Shreya Ghosh and Ritajyoti Bandyopadhyay