“In the Field” is a new podcast about India and development. In each episode, hosts Radhika Viswanathan and Samyuktha Varma delve into an issue India is trying hard to overcome. We hear from the researchers, academics, entrepreneurs, bureaucrats, activists and development practitioners shaping its solution, and find out how we can all be a part of it.
“In The Field” is a show that attempts to capture India’s development story, as it happens, through a feature-style podcast that combines interviews, commentary, and debate. By showcasing the ideas that drive the development agenda, and the people working at the forefront of these issues, the show will tell a larger story, one that links back to the daily actions of all people. We want to muddle the typical problem-solution, hero-villain or donor-recipient narrative common to development work, and change the way listeners understand their role and position in relation to each of the issues we present.
We also hope to start a conversation about culture: the culture of development work as we practice it and to examine how it influences social progress in India today. Episodes will be released every two weeks, and in each episode, we will examine an issue or idea India is trying hard to overcome and we will talk to people working on its solutions.
“In the Field” launched on October 24, 2017. Episodes are released every fortnight.
In our latest episode, “These are not considered to be ‘good’ jobs”, we take a closer look at the informal economy in India – the workers that hold up our cities. These are the millions of street vendors, drivers, dhobis, vegetable sellers, domestic workers, electricians, construction workers and wastepickers that are very much a part of the urban landscape, but also an integral part of our lives.
Informal workers are usually self-employed, work from home or make their living from contractual work. This means their livelihoods are fundamentally insecure. While many informal workers hover above the poverty line, one major illness in the family, for instance, can push them below it, into a crippling cycle of debt or poverty.
Beyond learning about their struggles, we explore what really needs to happen to truly improve their lives – improve their self-esteem and skills, their chances of getting decent work, and lessen their vulnerability to economic shocks.
Across India, many civil society organisations and NGOs have been set up to support the informal sector, to give these workers a leg up, or help them organise and fight for their rights.
One significant example of an informal worker group that we learn about are the wastepickers, the men and women who play an essential role in managing city waste, but are still amongst the poorest and most disadvantaged. Most wastepickers have a deep knowledge of recyclable waste and perform a critical environmental service. Indian cities are bursting at the seams, with people and their waste, but some cities are finally integrating wastepickers into municipal solid waste management services.
What more can be done to make the lives of informal workers secure? The state, the private sector, civil society and philanthropy can all play a role in moving the needle.
Many thanks to Gramvaani for sharing some of their fascinating work with us.
Listen to Episode 4 of In the Field here.