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Migrant Sugarcane Workers of India

David Goldman | India

A migrant worker stands in front of a sugarcane factory © davidoldmanphoto.com

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.

This project could not have been completed without the support, generosity and backing by the many people who contributed to the Indiegogo campaign. However, all the financial support means nothing if you don’t have someone you can trust who is looking out for your well being. For me that person was my friend Sunitha Jagaanath. Her support made this project possible. Sunitha miraculously introduced me to Panduranga Biradar aka “Pandu” the head of R&D at the Nandi Sugar Company, who without knowing me or what my intentions were gave me unobstructed access to the factory and the migrant workers. Without his help there would be no story to tell.

When I came home with thousands of images and hours of film footage I relied on the exceptional eye of Julie Grahame, whose editing expertise I trust implicitly. Design of the book was down to the amazing Sean Mosher-Smith. Sean has always been open to the work I do and his continued beautiful presentation work helps to tell the stories I feel need to be told. Video editing by Steven Collin and Jessica Schoen who had to put up with way more questions then anyone should have to endure. Troy Farmer, whose generosity of time and skill as a designer and friend are not lost on me. Thank you to Faizan Qadri at Radiations3 who translated my website ideas into code. Finally, to Anamika Jatkar who sat beside me for days and translated what these migrant men, women, and children had to say.

I was first made aware of India’s migrant sugarcane workers while working on another assignment for UN Women. One day, I was astonished to drive by what looked like city made up of tents, in the shadow of a huge factory complex. I asked the driver to stop so that we could go and speak with some of the people there. It was during this twenty minute stop that I learned some disturbing things.

Struck by the amount of time and energy they spent harvesting the cane, compared to the meagre amount they are paid, I felt compelled to document how the commoditization of the sugar industry has affected the Indian migrant worker, who make long journeys from small outlying villages they are from, to larger factory towns and cities in search of work. I hoped to get to know these people, to learn more about what motivates them, and the myriad challenges they face.

In my many travels there is one aspect of human nature I have found to be true no matter where I am, or who I am with — which is that every family wants to do the best for their children. I have also learned that this can mean vastly different things to different families in different places, from supporting their children through higher education, to simply providing food and shelter each day. Yet, the motivation that drives them is always the same, to build a better life for their children. India’s sugarcane migrant workers were no different.

David Goldman

david@davidgoldmanphoto.com

www.davidgoldmanphoto.com

www.thebirthlottery.com/migrant

323 459-8017

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