The Extractive Peasants of India
Free Public Lecture
Australia India Institute, the University of Melbourne
147-149 Barry Street Carlton
T: (03) 9035 7538
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South Asia Research Seminar
India’s gigantic informal, or the ‘unorganised’ sector as it is called, provides livelihoods for an innumerable people, including those toiling in small mines and quarries. Strangely, the NCEUS report (2007: 3) omitted the quarry workers. Such omissions add to the invisibility of the labouring figure of the rural migrant who ekes out a precarious living in one of the most difficult, dirty and risky jobs. What could be the reasons for this invisibility? The opposition to all kinds of mining by strong environmental lobby groups who are often based in metropolitan centres? The official tendency to conflate ‘informal’ with ‘illegal’ in India? State’s absolute ownership rights over mineral wealth and its bias towards the corporatised mineral enterprises?
The field – of small-scale mineral extraction by local entrepreneurs - has so far been a ‘theory wasteland’. If the macroeconomic theory of 'resource curse' or ‘resource conflicts’ failing hopelessly to realistically account for and explain the diverse and detailed assemblage of factors rooted in the local context, the broader questions posed above are also not adequately examined by political economists. In this seminar, Dr Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt will discuss her researcgh - funded by the ARC - into this extractive wasteland of informal labour, and carried out in partnership with local-level civil society organisations that are helping the informal quarry labourers to improve their lives.