Tag Archives: India

Enjoying free labour or helping students?

Entering the media industry is a challenge. The lucky ones are those who are at the right place at the right time while others need a godfather in the industry or pursue an (unpaid) internship.

Journalism has not only been a passion but a way of life for me. As a child, I was curious to find out about things happening around me and developed a nose for news.

I decided to pursue a career in journalism at the age of 12. Therefore, during my early teenage years, I began writing for my school and parish magazine and then went on to become a part of the editorial team.

My interest in the area drove me to pursue a bachelor’s degree in mass media with journalism as a specialisation.

Securing an internship

During the course of my bachelor’s degree, I decided to pursue an internship to enter the industry, gain experience and to create a network of contacts. The education system in India focusses more on marks than on gaining practical exposure. Pursuing an internship was out of choice not out of academic compusion.

I ran from pillar to post knocking on the doors of media companies in search of an internship. I finally got a one-month unpaid internship at a national English daily newspaper in Mumbai.

The lessons

I gained practical knowledge in the mainstream Indian print media as a reporter on the field as well as an editor and page designer on the desk.

I learnt a lot through hands-on experience and in terms of knowledge through co-ordination, co-operation and team work. I learnt that the glamour that is associated with such a job profile is quite an illusion.

Working with people with different attitudes, outlooks and approaches is a complete learning experience in itself. My work experience while reporting on various beats taught me the nuances and realities of a scribe’s life.

The internship was a great way to gain experience, confidence and knowledge about the world of work. In an increasing competitive job market, employers expect prospective employees to have some amount of work experience.

Why is it unpaid?

Interning for a company is totally different from volunteering with a charity. For me the internship was more about the work experience and not about the money. This is not the case for all interns. Many interns cannot afford to work for a month without pay. Coming from a well-to-do family in Mumbai, I was able to afford the unpaid internship along with all the other ancillary expenses that come along with it. It was surely hard on the pocket but I could do it with family support.

While reporting on the field, news progresses very fast. Unless the intern has their own transport which is highly unlikely, they have to rely on public transport. I did not have time to wait for the bus or the train. I had to take a taxi to reach my destination on time and gather news. Taxi fare and conveyance was the major  expense as I did not get a reimbursement. The reason cited by my editor was – “You have come here to learn which you are getting free. Why do you want to get paid for learning?”

Internships provide employers with cheap or free labour. Remunerating interns for their work is the company’s way of appreciating their work however menial it can be.

Intern Aware

Intern Aware is an organisation in the UK that campaigns for paid labour. The organisation strives for the payment of the national minimum wage for interns.

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Where History Meets the Arts

The thought of the East India Company surely brings back unpleasant memories of our freedom struggle. However, with the passage of time, the company just made it to History books. At present, the East India Company is owned by UK based Indian Sanjiv Mehta and the furniture division called the East India Company Home is owned by Anurag Kanoria.

Located in Byculla, just around the zoo in New Great Eastern Mills, stands a sprawling 9,000 square feet double-decked showroom known as the East India Company Home.

The East India Company is the oldest company in the world that was formed on 1st January 1600 when the East India Company started colonising India. During its existence from the year 1600, the East India Company specialised in the trade of several commodities such as jute, sugar, saltpetre, cotton, silk, indigo dye, opium and tea. This company even had the largest defence force. After the uprising of 1857 against the East India Company, the British monarch took away the assets of the East India Company in order to prevent the latter from becoming more powerful. About four years ago Sanjiv Mehta acquired a 100% share in the East India Company from the original heirs. The furniture division is owned by Anurag Kanoria.

Tucked away within the premises of a crumbling mill, where the wild grass and broken walls show no sign of activity, an eager client will find his way along the tar road. The East India Company Home today, boasts of elegant pieces of furniture with intricate works of art handmade by their own carpenters and craftsmen. “Each piece of furniture is made of rosewood, walnut wood or Burma teak which is of very good quality,” says Anurag Kanoria, the owner of East India Company Home.

The East India Company has its head office in London. The company showrooms are currently in Mumbai and in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. The third showroom will open shortly in Thailand. By the end of next year, the company plans to open showrooms in London, New Zealand, Moscow and the United States of America.

Konoria holds a master’s degree in Aesthetics and doctorate in Literature with Aesthetics as a specialisation. Thus, giving him an edge in furniture design. Kanorias furniture company earlier specialised only in high end furniture and interiors. After taking over the furniture division of the East India Company, Kanoria began to stock premium antique furniture.

Every piece of furniture is crafted in a limited edition. “Since the clients pay a premium for our furniture, they expect exclusivity from us. Therefore, we do not repeat models. If it is single model furniture, we do not make more than 12 pieces. However, the higher the price of the furniture the lesser number of units are made,” says Kanoria. “Even if we do repeat the furniture, we ensure that it is well spread out and does remain in the same showroom. In this way, the chance of someone spotting an identical piece is negligible,” says Kanoria.

The store is not just unique for its furniture but also for its collection of crockery and panels. Right from dinner plates and side plates of 22 carat to glasses, candle stands and napkin rings; the store has it all. Each dinner plate is hand painted. Even the embroidery and crochet on the upholstery of the furniture has been completed manually.

The store also specialised in Art Nouveau style of furniture. “We are the only manufacturer of art nouveau style furniture in the world,” says Kanoria.

Wood being the core raw material for the furniture could pose as an environmental hazard. “We are an environment friendly company. We make use of recycled wood obtained from government authorised plantations,” says Kanoria. “90% of the wood that we use is obtained from the wood that has been used in buildings. There are many buildings built during the British rule, which are now being demolished. The quality of wood back then was very good. Our evaluators evaluate the wood and then recycle them for making furniture,” he adds. The variety of recycled wood is Burma teak.

The furniture sold by the company is very elaborate and given the fact that real estate prices are increasing at an alarming rate, people try their best to save every inch of space. “Our clients include industrialists, NRIs, expatriates and people across the world that has sprawling houses and spending power. We advise people to take crockery or just single unit furniture in case they have a space crunch,” says Kanoria. Since the company also deals with interiors, the company provides flooring, upholstery, curtains, lights and taps that would suit the theme of the furniture.

Kanoria feels very privileged to be associated with the East India Company. “The name of the company holds a lot of weight and depth. Not only does it carry along with it history and culture but also a feeling of nostalgia and worth,” says Kanoria. queens charterAs the owner of the East India Company Homes, Kanoria uses the symbol of the Royal Charter of Queen Elizabeth I. Thus, on the first floor landing, there is a stained glass window with the imperial Coat of Arms of the East India Company with the words “originally established in 1600 by a Royal Charter from Queen Elizabeth I”. In addition, Kanoria is one among the privileged few to have access to archives of the Royal family and of the East India Company in London. Sourced from the archives, hanging on the walls of the showroom are black and white photographs and maps of the East India colonies and books on the company history are placed on the tables kept on display.

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The Plight of Refugees

Every year 20 June is celebrated as World Refugee Day in order to highlight the plight of all the refugees in the world. In order to commemorate this day, I am dedicating this week’s post to the cause of refugees.

According to Euripides, “There is no greater sorrow on earth than the loss of one’s native land”. This is often the case of a refugee. A refugee’ is defined as “a person who has fled his country owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable or, owing to fear, is unwilling to avail himself the protection of that country.” This definition is according to Article 7 of the 1951 Convention and Protocol relating to the status of refugees. However, India being home to about 3,30,000 refugees, considers them as “aliens”. India, despite completing 60 glorious years of Independence, does not have any special laws for the protection of these refugees. India deals with refugees under the Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939 and Foreigners Act, 1946 which is applicable to aliens.

However, the Government of India is empowered to regulate the entry, presence and departure of these aliens. In India, wage earning rights and work permits have no meaning for refugees. Hence, they have no way of supporting themselves and thus remain in poverty. When they just enter India, they are taken to a transit camp. There the necessities are not easily available. Over a period of time, they muster courage to move freely within the country and hence they do not have to live in transit camps.

People flee from their mother countries due to civil conflicts, massive violations of human rights, foreign aggression and occupation, poverty, famine, disease and natural calamities. Reasons such as famine, disease and natural calamities are just passing phases. After this, they return to their own countries whereas the other reasons are long standing anxieties that may or may not be solved.

The Sikhs and Hindus migrated from Pakistan to India and the Muslims migrated from India to Pakistan during the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. India and Pakistan readily accepted and rehabilitated these migrants. People of Indian origin were forced to leave Burma (now Myanmar) under the programme of Burmanization. During Bhutanization, the people of Nepali origin were pushed to India and Nepal. Sri Lanka upon becoming independent sent the Tamil plantation workers who were taken to the island by the British back to India. Bihari Muslims were sent to India during the liberation war of Bangladesh though they wanted to enter Pakistan. India continues to host and assist refugee population from different countries especially Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Tibet. Thus, India is diverse of refugee population.

Refugees undergo many trials and tribulations. There is arbitrary arrest of newly arrived young men on suspicion of rebel connection. Sometimes, they are even deported for security reasons. The host country does not welcome them willingly and hence they do not develop a sense of belonging towards the host country. When the refugees flee and seek asylum into another country, they come empty handed leaving behind their belongings. They have to start their life in the host country right from scratch. They are not granted refugee status or given citizenship easily as they are considered liabilities to the country. They are often targeted and accused in case of thefts or terrorist attacks. They are subjected to assaults, both physical and mental. Since they come empty handed, they do not have documentary evidence of their educational qualifications, income, proof of residence and so on. Sometimes even if they have documentary evidence, it is seized upon arrival in the host country. They are often denied accommodation, health facilities, education, protection and the like. Sometimes, they are separated from their families. Though they want to go back to their country, they have no option but to stay at the host country hoping that their own country will become safe one day. Sometimes, the country builds high walls to shut out refugees and asylum seekers. This insensitive gesture is not justified. The Sri Lankan refugees in India face problems of a different genre. They are firstly labeled as terrorists as people consider them as members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ellam (LTTE). A large number of them happen to be Dalits. They are forced to flee because of their caste, only because they are Dalits. They face the problem of apartheid.

Any person seeking refugee status has to approach the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). In spite of not being a member of the 145 – nation signed 1951 Geneva Convention, India has allowed the UNHCR to function in India through its offices in Delhi and Chennai. Many refugees have spent years waiting for resettlement but end up becoming a burden to the government. They are pleading with the Indian Government to grant them protection and refugee status.

The lack of legal provisions and policies on refugees is one of fundamental flaws of protection in India. At the same time, India cannot be blamed for this because many people take advantage of the hospitable nature of the Indian Government. They flee for better prospects and to enhance their quality of life. This is not forced migration but migration out of choice. Thus, the Government is very careful in granting refugee status.

I feel that safeguarding the refugees is the responsibility of the international community. It is high time India becomes a part of the UNHCR Convention of 1951. India should also consider amending its Foreigners Act, 1946 and differentiate between a “refugee” and a “foreigner”. We should realize that refugees are not born refugees; they are made refugees. Hence, we should not ostracize them. This will be possible only through awareness in refugee issues that will sensitize the people to give the refugees a hassle – free stay in India.

 

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