It is estimated that one-third of the world’s poor live in India, with the largest portion isolated in rural areas.
On behalf of Unifor’s Social Justice Fund, human rights and workers’ rights staff lawyer Niki Lundquist recently spent seven days in the districts of Nellore and Chittoor in south-east India to witness the frontline humanitarian work of Sahanivasa, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering the rural poor.
The visit was arranged through APVVU, a trade union engaged in struggles for land, housing, food security, employment programs and other social services to alleviate issues of hunger, ill health and distress migration on behalf of Dalit (low caste) and Indigenous people (Adivasis). Many Dalit and Adivasis peoples are landless, day laborers who depend upon landlord farmers for their livelihoods.
Sahanivasa is a partner organization of APVVU, working together closely. Sahanivasa projects focus on issues of caste, class, gender and human rights with an emphasis on political and agricultural sovereignty for marginalized groups.
Lundquist spent time in the field with local agricultural workers and obtained first-hand accounts of their experiences with violence, discrimination, and bonded labour.
“In some of the villages, members of APVUU had been freed from bonded labour, a situation of debt bondage where workers are unable to pay off landlords from whom money was borrowed, often decades previously,” said Lunquist.
She also had the opportunity to observe grassroots local union meetings, and learn about the fight for compensation after a local fishing village lost work to the building of a new, privately-owned harbour.
Both APVVU and Sahanivasa are sponsored through the Social Justice Fund.