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Coop mic (or cooperative microphone) is ICA-AP’s endeavour to provide a platform for experts from within and outside the cooperative ecosystem to talk about topical issues and help spread awareness about the cooperative model. ‘Coop mic’ stems from the universal idea of an open-mic that has attracted people to come forward to voice their thoughts and opinions on various topics and themes, in an open and voluntary fashion. Previous speakers have included, Hon. Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas and Hon. Bob Loughman, Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister (respectively) of Vanuatu; Ms. Alexandra Wilson, ICA Global Board member; Mr. Aditya Kriplani, Director of the movie, Tikli and Laxmi Bomb; Ms. Ishita Chaudhry, Founder and Managing Trustee of The YP Foundation; and Dr. Gopi Ghosh, Independent Consultant in Agriculture and Food Systems. Some of the videos from previous Coop Mics can be viewed on our Youtube channel here.


The latest edition of Coop Mic was with Mr. Rajiv Khandelwal, Executive Director of Aajeevika Bureau, India. Aajeevika Bureau is a pioneering public service organization that provides services and solutions to vast numbers of rural migrant workers in urban centres. Its work ranges from skilling, legal aid, health care, financial services and destination support to vulnerable migrant workforce. The topic of the talk, ‘Decent and Dignified Work Demands Action Now!’, was in consonance with the theme of this year's International Day of Cooperatives, i.e., Cooperatives for Decent Work.


Mr. Balasubramanian Iyer, Regional Director, ICA-AP (left) and Mr. Rajiv Khandelwal



The focus of the talk was distress migration in India from rural to urban areas and the kinds of interventions being carried out by Aajeevika Bureau to provide decent work opportunities and dignitifed  for migrant workers. The primary cause of distress migration are lopsided development policies which are driving thousands away from agriculture and towards unregulated, poorly protected and low value jobs. Such migration has long-lasting impact on the lived experiences, their cultural identities of workers and in their assimilation. Cities are hostile spaces for migrant workers and they have to leave them as and when their work is complete. In the cities the migrant workers don’t have access to shelter, proper drinking water, schools for their children, and other services for their basic survival. They are forced to enter these low value job markets like construction, head-load carrying, mining, brick making etc. They enter the workforce at 13-14 years of age, and due to the physically strenuous nature of the jobs retire by the time they are 40; the prime working age for salaried people. The lack of portability of entitlements (safety nets and rations) is another major concern for these temporary migrant workers as this is not transferable from one state to another.  


Many Civil Society Organisations are unable to help these migrant workers as they are work in their own defined silos of rural, urban, youth, farmer etc. and the concerns of these temporary workers often fall through the cracks. Aajeevika Bureau, established in 2004, started its work by issuing identity cards for migrant workers which also helped them track the number of people migrating each year. Among Aajeevika’s programs are legal-aid to help workers facing wage disputes and exploitation at their work place; health to address work related ailments; and training young workers to access better jobs.  The overall goal of Aajeevika is collectivisation and promotion of unions amongst workers, and to this end they have set up 25 unregistered but membership-based collectives and six labour unions.  


This eye-opening talk was followed by an enthusiastic round of questions and answers. The full video of the talk will be available on our social media channels on July 6, the International Day of Cooperatives.