by Br. Chris Ferreira sdb
MATUNGA - MUMBAI, MAY 13, 2013: The youth of Don Bosco Youth Services organised a Youth Forum on Workers' Rights, Dignity, Prejudices and Exploitation at DBYS, Matunga. There were fifteen participants in the discussion that commenced around 5:45pm, and which focussed on the sad plight of labourers in the nation. To set the momentum for the evening, a video describing the woes of domestic helps in Indian households. Fr. Cleo then introduced the reason for the forum, the basic issues involved and initiated a discussion on child labour, domestic helps and construction labourers.
The resource person for the forum was Divya David, an MSW and Mphil in Social Work and now a Phd Candidate at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She has her expertise and an avid interest in Labour Welfare. She helped the participants understand the present reality of labourers through videos, facts and statistics, and also touched upon the existing legislation, types of workers and how they are often exploited. The fact that bonded labour and child labour, which have been declared to be illegal, but which still continue to thrive in India was discussed.
The exploitation of workers is widespread, especially that of women and children who are more vulnerable. Employers casually disregard their obligation towards assuring proper working conditions, period of work, medical assistance, minimum wages and timely payments to labourers, knowing that inspection and enforcement authorities as well as judicial machinery can be "bought at a certain price."
Marina D'costa briefly presented the Church's stand on workers' rights and dignity, expressed through the encyclicals Rerum Novarum, Labourem Exercens, Caritas in Veritate and Pope Francis' Evangelii Gaudium. The Church grounds its concern for equal rights, just and equitable salaries and a peaceful way of resolving conflicts on the basic dignity of human persons created in the image of God.
The presentation was followed by a discussion to help the participants reflect on the existing reality and also consider the way ahead. It was the most fruitful element of the evening, where understanding met individual convictions. One of the main reflections drawn out was that academic excellence, financial success or social status does not necessarily guarantee personal integrity, socially responsible attitudes and ethical behaviour. The group finally considered how they could move forward by bringing practical yet meaningful changes in their lives. It was indeed a fruitful evening for learning, thought and action.