Who are they, these people of India, in whose name television anchors, politicians and assorted members of India’s voluble commentariat push their worldviews and agendas? They get called the ‘nation’, the ‘aam aadmi (common man)’ — deliberately broad labels that obscure the incredible heterogeneity of the country, per ethnicity, religion, caste, class and more, and make it easier for the State to evade questions on how its policies affect individuals.
And so, on this page, some of the folks I have met while tramping around.
Near Pichavaram, Coastal Tamil Nadu. While reporting on sharp declines in TN’s marine fish catch. https://scroll.in/article/808960/why-tamil-nadus-fisherfolk-can-no-longer-find-fish On the banks of the mighty Kosi. Araria, Bihar. https://scroll.in/article/844258/state-wrap-bihar-is-struggling-with-development-while-communal-cracks-grow-wider Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu. Nothing quite like malnourished poor wearing TShirts endorsing strongman leaders Migrant MSME worker at Ludhiana, Punjab. Fisherfolk leader, Pichavaram, Tamil Nadu. A much better choice of TShirt. In one of the poorer parts of Tamil Nadu. Krishnagiri. A family that became travelling salesmen. Near Hosur, Tamil Nadu. Caretaker of a mazaar in Punjab. The state is seeing rising religiosity thanks to a spike in economic insecurity ( http://scroll.in/article/804145/why-is-punjab-increasingly-turning-towards-new-gurus-for-comfort) The owner of a shrinking MSME in deindustrialising Ludhiana, Punjab. More on malnourishment in Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu. A girl eats a meagre diet of thin lentil gruel and rice. A solitary watchman guards an iron ore crushery in the iron ore boomtown of Koira. The boom is over. And the place has fallen silent ( https://scroll.in/article/743164/odishas-mining-boom-is-over-and-everyone-is-scrambling-to-cut-their-losses) A farmer in Kalahandi, Odisha ( https://scroll.in/roving/211/in-odisha-farmers-are-still-growing-food-the-hard-way) Bru tribal. Damparengpui, Mamit, Mizoram. https://scroll.in/article/713794/in-a-tiger-reserve-in-mizoram-camera-traps-are-taking-pictures-of-gunmen Villager, ripped off agri into mining work. Rayagada, Odisha Zochachhuiah, Lawangtlai, Mizoram OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Kaladan Highway, Lawangtlai, Mizoram A woman, her face protected from the sun, breaks stone for the Kaladan Highway. Lawangtlai, Mizoram Lawangtlai, Mizoram. Borapansury, Chakma Autonomous Council, Mizoram. https://scroll.in/article/720942/minority-councils-in-the-north-east-want-direct-funding-but-will-that-really-help-them-develop Aizawl, Mizoram Remtei runs a cosmetics (and floor carpets) store in distant Champhai. A few more kilometres to the east, Burma ( https://scroll.in/roving/167/where-aishwarya-rai-sells-hair-colour-in-chinese) Bhalukpong, Arunachal Pradesh Life at the margins. A fish market at Veraval, Gujarat My noble friend Praveen. Featured here thanks to public demand. Delhi, India. Manager of a small loom in Surat, Gujarat He left the diamond trade and moved to the textile cluster of Surat, Gujarat. Which shows distress for small units in diamond trade as well as contributes to distress in Surat’s textile trade. All before GST came in and hammered things some more. https://scroll.in/article/842004/beyond-surats-gst-strike-new-technologies-chinese-imports-are-causing-a-churn-in-textile-sector Near Villupuram, Tamil Nadu, high debt is forcing some farmers off agriculture into brick-making on their fields. https://scroll.in/article/810138/a-tsunami-of-debt-is-building-up-in-tamil-nadu-and-no-one-knows-where-it-is-headed Bhindu Paimar, a village between Bodh Gaya and the ancient university of Nalanda. Shopkeeper Lallan Paswan came up with sophisticated reasons in support of DeMonetisation. See: https://scroll.in/article/823559/demonetisation-in-a-hamlet-in-bihar-income-and-expenditure-is-down-but-hopes-are-up Hammals (loaders) at Amritsar’s grain mandi. The redoubtable Kumti Majhi. Fighting against Vedanta at Niyamgiri ( https://scroll.in/article/738955/the-dongria-kondhs-of-odisha-now-face-a-more-formidable-enemy-than-vedanta) The BJP’s candidate at Borapansury, Chakma Autonomous Council, Mizoram ( https://scroll.in/article/719322/why-the-bjp-is-gaining-popularity-in-some-parts-of-minority-dominated-mizoram) Champhai, Mizoram Life in a biodiversity hotspot. Lama Camp, Tenga, West Kameng, Arunachal Pradesh. https://mrajshekhar.wordpress.com/2018/01/20/and-now-for-something-completely-different-9/ A garment wholesaler returns home after buying stock at Surat, Gujarat ( https://scroll.in/article/841882/in-surats-textile-hub-small-businesses-are-afraid-of-gst-but-big-companies-are-not) Flower market, Hosur, Tamil Nadu. (This snap was taken on the first day of demonetisation) Bettiah, Bihar (About two weeks into demonetisation). https://scroll.in/article/822860/cauliflower-sells-for-rs-one-a-kilo-in-bihar-as-demonetisation-depresses-demand Bettiah. Bihar. In this market, a day after demonetisation, the price of cauliflower crashed from Rs 12 a kilo to Rs 1. https://scroll.in/article/822860/cauliflower-sells-for-rs-one-a-kilo-in-bihar-as-demonetisation-depresses-demand Tribal family in Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu. Contrasts between the tribal and dominant community homes are stark. Tribal hamlet near Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu ( https://scroll.in/article/820861/part-1-tamil-nadus-healthcare-numbers-look-good-but-its-people-arent-getting-healthier) An underage, malnourished mother who lost her newborn. This reporter met in Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu. Such incidents demand a relook at Tamil Nadu’s claims on steady welfarism. It has degenerated, we found, to a sort of messianic populism. Part one: https://scroll.in/article/820861/part-1-tamil-nadus-healthcare-numbers-look-good-but-its-people-arent-getting-healthier Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu. This old man complained about missing doctors. https://scroll.in/article/822044/think-tamil-nadu-has-good-public-healthcare-its-hard-to-find-it-on-the-ground Jugaad in Punjab ( https://scroll.in/roving/800772/travel-in-punjab-and-you-are-bound-to-run-into-jugaad) A bicycle pedal-making MSME owner forced by Punjab’s eroding competitiveness into selling phenyl ( https://scroll.in/article/772899/why-is-industry-fleeing-punjab) A young farmer in Punjab. https://scroll.in/article/772198/how-climate-change-has-sparked-political-and-social-unrest-in-punjab-this-year Bolangir, Odisha A migrant worker mans an oil depot at Keonjhar, Odisha. https://scroll.in/article/761825/how-odisha-squandered-valuable-mineral-resources-without-any-gains-for-its-people A young man at Amritsar mandi poses with his mother for a photo. https://scroll.in/roving/1214/these-workers-at-amritsars-grain-market-are-smiling-only-for-the-camera Secretary of Jallandhar’s dwindling sports good industry. https://scroll.in/article/772899/why-is-industry-fleeing-punjab A labour contractor at Bolangir, Odisha. The state supplies migrant labour (sometimes recruited through debt bondage) across India. https://scroll.in/article/747416/why-lakhs-of-people-leave-odisha-to-work-in-distant-unsafe-brick-kilns Farmer in Bolangir, Odisha Freed bonded labour. Bolangir, Odisha Koyda, Odisha A truck owner who bet on the mining boom in Koyda, Odisha. Bought lots of trucks. And now stuck because the boom is gone. https://scroll.in/article/743164/odishas-mining-boom-is-over-and-everyone-is-scrambling-to-cut-their-losses Rayagada, Odisha Rayagada, Odisha Schoolkids in Keonjhar. One of the most unequal places in all of India ( https://scroll.in/article/758158/what-a-primary-school-in-keonjhar-tells-us-about-odishas-misplaced-government-spending) Rayagada, Odisha Damparengpui, Mamit, Mizoram OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Near Dampa Tiger Reserve, Mamit, Mizoram Zochachhuiah, Lawangtlai, Mizoram. Where the Kaladan highway enters Burma ( http://scroll.in/article/729210/a-new-gateway-to-the-north-east-runs-into-and-jumps-over-a-corruption-roadblock) Migrant workers at Kaladan highway, Lawangtlai, Mizoram Lunglei, Mizoram Artisanal artist in Lawangtlai, Mizoram The solitary doctor at Borapansury, Chakma Autonomous Council, Mizoram. Ayush, of course. https://scroll.in/article/719322/why-the-bjp-is-gaining-popularity-in-some-parts-of-minority-dominated-mizoram A teacher at Lawangtlai, Mizoram. Not getting his salary, he now supports his family by driving an auto. A farmer at Lunglei, Mizoram ( https://scroll.in/article/717758/how-the-congress-derailed-a-plan-to-stop-mizorams-farmers-burning-the-forests) Aizawl, Mizoram Young restauranteurs in in Aizawl, Mizoram Aizawl, Mizoram Vegetable market, Aizawl, Mizoram Guwahati, Assam Vegetable market at Aizawl, Mizoram ( https://scroll.in/roving/23/vegetable-markets-elsewhere-in-mizoram) Champhai, Mizoram Government official during off-hours. Champhai, Mizoram. Champhai, Mizoram Government hospital ambulance driver, Champhai, Mizoram. The system when we visited was massively underfunded. See https://scroll.in/article/723915/aids-is-about-to-explode-in-mizoram-and-the-modi-government-is-partly-to-blame and https://scroll.in/article/724629/why-medical-workers-are-taking-personal-loans-to-keep-mizorams-healthcare-system-running Champhai, Mizoram Dolma Lama, who runs a restaurant at Tenga Market, West Kameng, Arunachal Pradesh Lama Camp, West Kameng, Arunachal Pradesh Cobbler at Champhai, Mizoram At the Rann of Kutch, Gujarat Dairy farmer at Banaskantha, Gujarat. See these two reports on the fraying milk cooperative which supports them. https://scroll.in/article/858576/the-amul-story-how-politics-is-hurting-the-economics-of-gujarats-milk-cooperatives and https://scroll.in/article/858585/amul-is-now-a-congress-mukt-federation-how-bjp-took-control-of-indias-largest-milk-cooperative Textile trader at Surat, Gujarat Fisherman at Hazira, Gujarat. https://scroll.in/article/859205/urban-planning-why-gujarats-cities-are-losing-their-fight-against-a-changing-climate Owner of a textile factory in Surat, Gujarat Apatani women, Arunachal Pradesh Vegetable seller near Margarita, Assam Cycling beyond Sibasagar, Assam. We met this Bihar migrant working in a bakery at the town. He was off to hawk the day’s production from his baker’s cycle cart. Miao, Arunachal Pradesh. Those packets contain yeast used for brewing rice beer. buddhiram. works 20 days a month at chandasi as labour. the pay is dismal. the ‘mate’ (labour contractor) deducts a lot even though he does no work.