Sugar, smoke and survival - Deepti Asthana

This story is about how the commoditized and marginalized migrant sugarcane workers in India are essentially stuck in a loop in which they desperately want to educate their children to ensure a better life but because of lack of money they are not in a position to send their kids to school. As a result the next generation is condemned to living out a meager existence.


At the end of the monsoon season, up to a half a million subsistence farmers will leave their poorly irrigated land and travel to where the sugarcane grows plentiful, thanks to abundant water and a large network of dams. Migrants have been coming for well over 40 years to work at some of the 200 or more factories that spread across 3 states. While profits continue to increase for owners, it’s the migrants that remain impoverished.


Women and child migrants form an even more vulnerable group within this community facing serious lack of security at the destination areas. Women in particular face high risks of trafficking and various forms of exploitation, including forced prostitution. Because of the real estate prices in the cities and low disposable incomes, migrants are compelled to live in sub-human conditions on work sites, pavements, filthy, and congested slums, which lack basic amenities and sanitation facilities. This is the story of one such farm near Somnath, Gujrat where I extensively photographed women and children; how the prominent presence of smoke affecting them.




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