Should he sleep like this? We need to wake up!

September 29, 2018

Shyam (name changed) is a migrant worker in Mumbai, India.
He works as a daily wage earner, lifting goods from shops and dropping them to nearby places carrying the load on his head in his wicker basket. When he gets tired, or in between the load lifting and dropping trips, he takes a nap in his wicker basket but only till his phone rings and he gets the next call. Maximum weight he can carry is no criterion. He takes as much as he can handle. With the load, he walks up to 5-6 kilometres and sometimes also climbs the stairs in buildings that have no elevator.

I met him in my recent trip to Mumbai and he was kind enough to speak to me about his life. He earns around Rs 1000 (approximately USD 14) a day. At the young age of 28 years, he has started having pain in his neck. He misses his family and the comfort of home. Why did he migrate then? In his home town in Bihar ( another Indian state), he was not able to earn even Rs. 100 a day. He would then be counted among the 800 million who live in extreme poverty globally earning less than 1.9 dollars a day.

Poverty and lack of opportunities at home make people like Shyam migrate to other places. They may earn a bit more but face several challenges and hardships. This proves that increasing income is not enough. Working conditions, occupational safety and health, education and other social services are critical to ensure that people have a good quality of life.

Shyam was in my mind as I conducted the session “leaving no one behind” in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in an international training progrmame this week in Turin, Italy.

We discussed why certain groups – women and girls, migrants, youth, persons with disability, persons living with HIV, indigenous and tribal persons – are being left behind. They are often amongst the extreme poor; they face discrimination on several grounds; and as a result they also have low access to education, health and decent jobs.

The sustainable development agenda envisages that the development goals should be met for all nations/people and for all segments of society. Each country is supposed to identify the groups that are being left behind. I hope people like Shyam will be taken note of as countries implement their plans and make an attempt to reach out to those who are the furthest behind.