Coastal region and small island papers 17
ASSBY has attracted many men, and later women, to jobs that are year-round, better paid, regular and less arduous than work in the fields. The repercussions of this labour shift have been far reaching.
Chapter Two Environmental and social change
Anne Ebner © 2003
ASSBY is located on the Bhavnagar Gopnath segment of the Saurashtra coast which forms the western flank of the Gulf of Khambhat (see map). This Gulf forms a funnel shaped entrance to the Arabian Sea sandwiched between mainland Gujarat and the Saurashtra peninsula. It opens up into the Arabian Sea rather abruptly and is located at the widest part of the west coast’s continental shelf. The Gulf is 50 km in its widest part along its southern limit and is approximately 135 km long in the north-south direction.
ASSBY lies within a semi-arid, drought prone, coastal zone of saline soils. The region has an average annual rainfall of 558 mm; the mean highest and lowest temperatures are 34.2º C and 21.9º C respectively. The natural vegetation is classified as semi-arid scrub forest. The study area within a 12 km radius of Alang comprises 239.15 ha of forest, 801.55 ha of cultivable lands and 497.49 ha of land unsuitable for agricultural purposes.
|Typical landscape of
semi-arid scrub vegetation
in study area
The coastal alluvial soils consist of bentonite clay soils (an absorptive and colloidal clay used as a bond for sand, asbestos and other industrial applications including manufacture of paper, soap, pharmaceuticals and altering the viscosity of oil) and deep black soils. The bentonite clay soils lack a porous subsurface layer, are susceptible to water logging and salinity, and have high lime impregnation. All these factors render them unproductive for agriculture. Closer to the coast the soils are deep, dark grey-brown, fine in texture, slowly permeable and subject to tidal action.
The area as a whole faces problems common to most of the coastal areas of Saurashtra. These include low soil fertility, increasing soil salinity, scanty vegetation cover, soil erosion, scarcity of fresh water, overgrazing and overexploitation of fuel wood, depletion of fish stocks due to mangrove destruction, and discharge of industrial waste into the sea.
A report by Greenpeace (Kanthak et al., 1998) reported high levels of heavy metals and toxic organic compounds in marine sediments and soil samples taken from ASSBY. In addition, hazardous solid waste materials, like asbestos from the ships, is indiscriminately discarded and sold in the open market near ASSBY. Farmers in the area have been known to use the discarded asbestos as fencing materials for their fields. Asbestos is used for both insulation and as a fire resistant material; however, its dust causes the formation of scar-like tissue in the lungs, resulting in permanent breathing difficulties, and in the long term, lung cancer and cancer of the thin membrane around the lungs. The proper disposal of asbestos, as well as other materials such as oil waste, thinners and other chemicals, solvents, epoxy resins, antifreeze fluids and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon compounds, is extremely important.
An interdisciplinary team from the Bhavnagar University collected and analysed data on plant, wildlife and water resources in the study area over a 12-month period from February 1999 to January 2000. This survey was designed to determine the impact of ASSBY and associated industries on the natural resources of the area and to identify preliminary wise practices.
The coastline in the study area forms a narrow north-northeast/south-southwest trending coastal plain, backed by low ridges. This plain is crossed by several small rivers and seasonal streams which are shallow and less than 50 km in length. Due to their seasonal nature, these rivers and streams are not reliable sources of water for human consumption, irrigation or other uses.
Despite the severe restriction on available drinking water faced by coastal villages in the Gulf of Khambhat, no serious attempt has been made to evaluate ground and fresh water conditions within the area. The ground water in all coastal segments of the Gulf is saline and sweet water supply is limited and restricted to very shallow water table type unconfined aquifers (Islam, 1986).
All of the area’s rivers and ponds are polluted to some degree by human activities, which include the washing of clothes and utensils, bathing, and the washing of cattle and vehicles (tractors, rickshaws, trucks etc.). Sathara village pond and the streams at Alang, Sosiya and Mandva are also used for discharge of waste water from the villages.
Water quality sample sites were chosen based on the different uses being made of the water (domestic, agricultural, industrial) and water sources (well, bore, lake, pond or irrigation canal). The permissible limits of various water quality parameters, mainly for drinking and agricultural use, were analysed in accordance with standards from the World Health Organization, American Public Health Association, and Indian Standards Institution. The conclusion was that water resources in the village wells had no contaminants, such as hydrocarbons or heavy metals, that could be directly correlated to the ship-breaking activities. However, there was a certain degree of saline intrusion.
Workers use the village pond at Bharapara and water available at the plots for washing and cleaning. The pond is visited by as many as 30 species of water birds during the year. At ASSBY itself, drinking water is brought in by the port authorities via tankers from the village of Manar.
A follow-up study of the economic aspects of water resource management in the ASSBY area was completed in 2002 with the support of UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (Dube, 2002). It is estimated that 85% of the rainfall is not recovered in the Saurashtra region. An analysis of water supply revealed that surface water in dams is the most important source providing 14 million cubic metres, as opposed to only 4.5 million cubic metres supplied by ground water discharge from bores, wells and springs. An in-depth analysis of water demand for domestic, animal, irrigation and industrial uses revealed that the combined demand for water in the ASSBY villages is 46 million cubic metres, which is far in excess of supply. The Gujarat Maritime Board has taken steps to assist several villages in improving their water supply with pipelines. However, the overall water shortfall signals a need for a co-ordinated response to water resource management.
The increased economic activity and prosperity brought about by ASSBY has been matched by a corresponding increase in the demand for land. More and more villagers have begun to convert their dwellings into larger concrete structures, leading to encroachment on community grazing lands, and increased pressure on those plants used for fuel wood and fodder. This has caused demand for fuel wood and fodder to exceed supply.
In the absence of any prior baseline data, the study was not able to determine whether the presence of ASSBY had had a significant effect on the flora. Although it was noted that there were very few plant species at Alang and Sosiya, the two villages where ASSBY activities had heavily encroached. A one-year study of the vegetation was conducted and primarily focused on the uses of various plants in the day-to-day lives of the villagers.
Mangroves buffer the destructive power of cyclones and other storms, thus reducing coastal erosion. They are the feeding and breeding habitats for a large number of commercially important fish and marine organisms. They are also the nesting sites for a large number of water birds. In the Saurashtra and Kutch regions of Gujarat, mangroves are a vital source of fodder for the migratory camel herders (Jats). Mangroves have numerous uses such as fuel wood, fodder, green manure, boat building, fish traps and fishing floats, tannin for the preservation of fishing nets, raw material for paper production, food, drugs, honey, beverages and household items.
The Gujarat Forest Department has successfully regenerated mangroves along the coasts of Kutch and Ghogha (near Bhavnagar) and this practice could be extended to the mangrove fringes of ASSBY by the Departments’ Social Forestry section.
grows as a
There are a number of plants growing in the study area which are considered to be ‘weeds’ yet are also used for fodder. Fifty weed species found to be commonly growing in the study area were selected for detailed investigation regarding their use as food, fodder and medicine by the local communities. Leguminous plants like Crotolaria (Ranmethi), Taverniera (Jethimal) and Alysicarpus (Khadsamervo) are a rich source of protein for both livestock and humans. Some of the local plants belonging to other families like Digera (Kanjaro) and Phyllanthus (Kanochha), are quite hardy and a source of fodder for the free-grazing cattle. These plants, along with some hardy fodder grasses like Dicanthium annulatum (Zhinzhvo), Sehima nervosum (Shaniyar) and Heterogon contortus (Kagadiyoo), can be planted in the village grazing lands.
The presence of one particular weed, Parthenium hysterophorus (Congress grass), which is rarely found in remaining parts of Saurashtra, can be attributed to ASSBY. Its abundant presence around ASSBY implies that the seeds of this exotic weed have invaded this area either through ships coming to ASSBY or through the belongings of migratory workers. If left unchecked, this weed may pose a health hazard as it can trigger off skin allergies in humans.
Prosopis juliflora (Gando baval) is an exotic weed which grows abundantly in the study area. It has encroached onto village grazing lands and fields and has spread in all parts of Saurashtra and Kutch. This plant has the ability to thrive in saline and drought prone areas. It produces good quality gum, honey and charcoal. Its pods are rich in sugar and protein. An NGO based in Kutch has been using this plant for large-scale production of gum, honey, charcoal and cattle feed from its pod. This project has also been a source of income generation for the local residents. The tree has also been used for the biological desalination of saline wastelands.
There are also hardy, drought resistant, multipurpose tree species like Acacia nilotica (Desi babul), Prosopis cineraria (Khijado) and Acacia senegal (Gorad), as well as salt tolerant species like Casuarina in the area. All of these tree species can also be utilized as sources of major and minor forest products like gum, tannin, fuel wood and fodder. The presence of tall trees in the agricultural fields invites large birds of prey such as eagles and kites, directly benefiting farmers by preying upon insect pests and rodents.
A number of the local plant species such as Calotropis, Capparis and Balanites are used by local communities and Vaids (traditional healers) to cure various ailments. Strong traditions revolve around these plants and their medicinal properties are relayed by folklore and songs. However, because of the immense pressure on the local vegetation for fuel, wood and fodder, some of these medicinally important plants are becoming rare along with the knowledge of their uses.
|Black-winged Stilt near
Water birds and their habitats were chosen for the study primarily because both their aquatic habitats and their migratory patterns are very sensitive to changes in the environment and might therefore be an indicator of the impact of ASSBY.
The study area comprised eight village ponds and three seasonal streams, all of which are visited by resident and migratory birds. Since there were no pre-ASSBY surveys, the results provide valuable baseline information. A year-round census of water birds was carried out and detailed observations were made on the following aspects:
Location, size and characteristics of water bodies in the study area
Identification and inventory of bird species at the water bodies
Impact of the bird populations on the local communities
Impact of human activities on bird populations and habitats
Impact of ASSBY on the aquatic bird populations and their habitats
Prior to the establishment of ASSBY, the Alang coast supported rich coastal vegetation, including mangroves. This, along with the coastal morphology of the area, provided an ideal habitat for a variety of resident and migratory water birds. These birds are also attracted further inland to the various village ponds for roosting and foraging.
A large number of the water birds in the study area, e.g. the Little Grebe, Black-winged Stilt and Black Ibis, feed on insects and some, like White Ibis, Painted Stork and Cattle Egret, feed on rodents. These birds help in controlling the population of various pests, which are a threat to farmers’ fields and crops. Some birds help check the spread ofmalaria and aquatic weeds.
|Village||Number of waterfowl species recorded 1999-2000|
|Kathava||No consistent sightings|
|Takhatgadh||No consistent sightings|
ASSBY appears to have had a direct impact in terms of species and numbers of water birds in the surrounding villages of Alang, Mandva and Sosiya. In addition, various types of pollutants, e.g. oils and heavy metals from paints, spill into the sea and have had an adverse impact by restricting the breeding, feeding and roosting grounds of some water birds (depending on their migratory patterns) in the vicinity of ASSBY. There is no hard evidence to indicate that the ship-breaking yard has had an appreciable effect on ponds, rivers and aquatic bird life beyond this immediate area. In fact, the study area as a whole shows high species diversity for waterfowl compared to the coast of southern Saurashtra, with a total of 42 different species belonging to ten families.
Recommendations and preliminary wise practices for conservation
The following recommendations and preliminary wise practices for the conservation of soil, water, plant and wildlife resources in the area around ASSBY are also relevant for many other parts of India.
1. Develop water resources for the
local people: All of the villages
within the study area need adequate
supplies of clean water for drinking
and washing purposes. Ponds need
to be deepened to increase water
availability. Special emphasis must
be given to the management of
catchment areas of rivers and
ponds, and traditional rainwater
harvesting techniques should be
reintroduced wherever possible.
Further awareness-raising is needed
among the local people regarding
the adverse health effects of drinking
Prosopis juliflora - a much maligned exotic plant
2. Undertake further studies of heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants in soil, water, plants and human tissue.
3. Propagate and popularize local plants used in indigenous medicine: Since modern health care facilities are far from adequate in the ASSBY region, the need to conserve medicinally important plants cannot be over emphasized. Encouraging women to grow and maintain some of these plants in their backyards, and upgrading womens’ and native doctors’ skills in preserving and processing herbs are recommended. The knowledge relating to these plants needs to be systematically documented and disseminated; at present it is scattered and limited to specific generations within certain communities.
4. Regenerate mangrove species: It is recommended that the Gujarat Forest Department, with its experience in mangrove regeneration, involve the local fishing and camel herder (Jat) communities in the conservation, regeneration and sustainable exploitation of mangroves in the study area. Once regenerated, the mangroves and other halophytic species can, not only protect and stabilize the coast, but also help in reducing the pollutants discharged into the sea by ASSBY's activities. This would also help to attract a greater number of waterfowl to the area.
5. Introduce wise management practices for grazing land and fodder exploitation: Introduce the concept of rotational grazing with the help of the Lok Bharati Agricultural School at Manar village, and train the livestock owners in the planting and sustainable exploitation of various good quality fodder species in their fields and community grazing lands. For example, a private industrial group in Kutch has raised plantations of Salvadora species on saline wastelands. The seeds of these trees, which contain 30–40% non-edible oil, are periodically harvested and supplied to the mill owners who extract its oil and sell it to soap and detergent manufacturers as a substitute for coconut oil. Local people have been employed in the maintenance of these plantations and women are employed in the harvesting of the seeds. It is recommended that local communities, NGOs, the Forest Department and research institutes, such as the Bhavnagar-based Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute, be involved in a similar initiative in the study area.
6. Propagate native multipurpose tree species on village wastelands, grazing lands and fields: Form a tree-growers co-operative among the villagers, and with the assistance of the Forest Department, distribute seedlings of some of the hardy, drought resistant, multipurpose tree species like Acacia nilotica (Desi babul), Prosopis cineraria (Khijado) and Acacia senegal (Gorad) along with guidelines on planting and care of these tree species. In the coastal area, hardy salt tolerant tree species like Casuarina, can be grown as shelter belts along the field margins. The above mentioned tree species can also be utilized as major and minor sources of gum, tannin, fuel wood, fodder, etc. The presence of tall trees in the agricultural fields can reduce pests by providing a habitat for large birds of prey like eagles and kites. It is recommended that local communities and entrepreneurs be involved in these initiatives.
7. Eradicate undesirable exotic weed species.
8. Increase awareness about the uses of village ponds for waterfowl habitat.
As was the case with the environmental survey, there was little previous work with which to compare the socio-cultural study findings. Hence, it was necessary to rely heavily on information gathered through interviews with village elders, regarding the conditions prevailing in the study area prior to the coming of ASSBY. The work undertaken represents an important database which can also be used for future monitoring of other industrial developments which are planned for the coastal areas of Saurashtra. (Slightly different socio-economic and cultural circumstances prevail in other coastal parts of Gujarat.)
Of the 3,248 households identified in the 10 villages by the 1991 State government census, 485 households representing 3,053 individuals (women, men and children) were selected as subjects for the present study.
Data were collected on a wide range of socio-cultural indicators in the ten communities: standard of living, organization of village life, cultural features (including issues of caste and gender), marriage, politics, religion, health, education, inter-community relations, and relations between the local population and migrant workers at ASSBY.
|Herdsman with his goats on the road to ASSBY|
Prior to the establishment of ASSBY, the vast majority of the population were engaged in rain-fed subsistence agriculture supplemented by limited irrigation and animal husbandry. Higher forms of agricultural technology had yet to make inroads in the area. The service sector was virtually non-existent, and the few shops were barely able to meet the needs of the population.
Social and business relations extended only a few tens of kilometres and the ‘marriage circle’, the area within which a son/daughter was likely to find a spouse, stretched to a radius of merely 60 km. Marriage remained subject to some of the oldest traditions to be found in India, in terms of identification of a spouse, the provision of a dowry, adherence to the rules of caste, and all the other rituals associated with this important union. Where work was concerned, caste was pre-eminent in the determination of the types of employment a person could undertake. Although the area was mainly populated by the ‘lower castes’, the gap and traditional rules governing relations among different castes were strictly observed. Religion played a large role in village life, and frequent religious festivals brought neighbouring villages into contact. Individual and family prayers were a regular feature of daily life. Politics were in the hands of village elders, with the role of sarpanch (village head) generally passing from father to son. Women and youth had little or no voice in the political affairs of the village.
Different generations of a family lived under one roof and younger generations deferred to the elders for crucial decisions. Most houses were of the traditional kachha (clay, cow dung and thatch) variety, lacking any sort of modern amenities. Health care and education services were very basic. Health care was largely the domain of traditional doctors, medicines and religion. Primary schools were found in only eight of the ten villages prior to the advent of ASSBY. Girls were essentially excluded from education and the overall rate of literacy was very low.
Impact of ASSBY on village life
Engine being repaired for re-sale at a khada
ASSBY has attracted many men, and later women, to jobs that are year-round, better paid, regular and less arduous than work in the fields. Workers from the villages are usually between 21 and 40 years of age. The repercussions of this labour shift have been far reaching. Women and older persons who might have otherwise ‘retired’ have been obliged to continue working in the fields to replace the labour force relocated to ASSBY. Farmers have to look further for male labourers and to pay the newcomers more money to compete with the ship-breaking yard.
By 1999, 25% of survey respondents had abandoned their usual occupation for ASSBY, while the activities of farming, animal husbandry and village labour continued to occupy nearly three quarters of the local population. However, there is a large percentage of people who combine ASSBY-related occupations with their original occupations.
The appeal of ASSBY-related work, as mentioned above, is readily apparent: more money for less work. This factor attracted a large number of farm labourers to the ASSBY workforce as they are the lowest income earners in the area. The steady expansion of the yard encroached on traditional grazing lands, creating a fodder shortage problem for cattle breeders. New roads and increased vehicular traffic led to many animal casualties. Thus, livestock rearers also drifted towards the ship-breaking yard for employment. Many locals found they could make a living by opening or renting land for khadas (scrap shops) to sell accessories, furniture and equipment removed from the ships. Village artisans, who traditionally served the agricultural community turned to providing services for the ship-yard, and in so doing, acquired new techniques and technology. Others have turned to small-scale land speculation given the considerable rise in land prices during ASSBY’s operation. The character of the yard changes every Sunday, the workers’ day off. Many vendors set up their hand lorries and spread cloth on the foot path to sell a host of different items including readymade garments, footwear, toys, mirrors, glass vessels, and other miscellaneous items like pens, combs and belts.
A study of the length of residency of the villagers suggests that ASSBY drew a first wave of migration into the study area from 1982 onwards, so that by 1999, some 18% of residents had arrived after the ship-breaking yard was established. The majority of these people were relatives and friends of the existing residents and integrated easily into the villages. In contrast, during the ten years preceding ASSBY, only 3% of respondents had immigrated into the study villages.
As overall (relative) wealth increased in the study area, it was found that hitherto non-existent money markets began to develop for credit and savings. As more cash began to flow through the local economy, credit became available from new banks, merchants and moneylenders. This was used to improve homes and upgrade the working equipment of artisans and farmers. In the early years of ASSBY, 91% of the villagers were in debt as they availed themselves of the new opportunities for business and took out investment loans. Over the years, however, a quarter of the respondents had accumulated savings in co-operatives and banks.
Responses to questions relating to the effect of ASSBY on specific aspects of the villagers’ lifestyle are further discussed in the following sections.
A variety of questions were asked of the villagers about the overall impact of the ship-breaking yard on the traditional, essentially agricultural character of the study area. The responses are summarized below:
Agriculture, which previously had barely exceeded subsistence levels, had become more costly and less profitable since ASSBY commenced operation;
Higher wages at ASSBY meant that employing farm labour had become more expensive. Indeed, some farmers were supplying their own labour time free of charge (on an exchange basis) for their relatives to offset the lack of affordable labourers;
Farmers possessing water sources, hitherto used for irrigation and domestic needs, were selling the water on the open market (including to meet demands from the ship-yard), further reducing overall agricultural production;
Farmers who have modernized their agricultural practices by using chemical fertilizers, pesticides and hybrid seed, have maintained and improved their productivity and profit;
Many lower and middle class women with husbands working at ASSBY no longer needed to work in the fields. Children in turn were freed from looking after the home and siblings and were thus able to go to school; and
Poorer women have been able to
find work (albeit manual and
heavy) at the ship-breaking yard,
and are thus no longer available
for the even more arduous labour in the villages or fields.
|Lunchtime at Manar Village School|
Anecdotal accounts offered by older villagers, combined with data gathered by the research team, indicated that over the past 18 years, education has improved and literacy risen significantly. The Gujarat Maritime Board has assisted with improving education and educational facilities, as well as transportation facilities. Additional rooms have been added to existing primary schools and a new secondary school was built at Sathara. Separate facilities have been put in place for the education of girls. Some parents send their children to nearby towns and cities for technical education so that they can work with the mechanical, electrical and electronic equipment being recovered and recycled from the ships.
Government dispensaries have been established in some of the 10 villages and a maternity clinic has been set up in Manar. Private medical practitioners have set up practices in some of the villages. The majority of cases, such as the birth of a baby or the treatment of a sick family member, are still dealt with by traditional means first, while modern doctors and clinics are viewed as a last resort. Health care appears to be one of the few domains where traditional attitudes and practices have not changed much since the advent of ASSBY. However, the yard itself has become a source of medicines left over in the ships, which are now dispensed indiscriminately, and at high prices, by unqualified persons.
In pre-ASSBY times, caste was very much an integral part of village life in the study area. The system made for a segmented division of society, a rigid hierarchy, caste-based rules for eating and social interaction, civil rights and vocation dictated by caste, and caste endogamy. Households in the study area still clearly identify themselves by caste. However, the study group cited evidence to show that, since 1982, improved economic status and greater exposure to an urban value system attributable to the ship-breaking yard has caused some blurring of the divisions. There are now mixed residential areas, with members of different castes living in close proximity. For example, the house of a Harijan caste member may share a common wall with that of a Brahmin. There is no more discrimination on public transport in the area. At ASSBY, members of different castes work in the same place and often at the same job.
For an individual, the opportunity to improve their standard of living and to send children to school is afforded by ASSBY and depends on the talent and energy put into work, regardless of caste. ASSBY has created new vocations and business opportunities, inciting many to change their work, leaving traditional caste-related jobs behind. The overall rural character of the study area began to shift, first in employment and then in attitudes and behaviour.
Marriage remains one of the most important events in the life of a young woman and man, as well as the two families concerned (and ultimately the community as a whole). Although marriage is still one feature of village life strongly influenced by tradition, new patterns and attitudes are evolving:
63% of marriages are still arranged by the parents, while the future spouses are given some say in the decision in 37% of matches;
The criteria for selection of a spouse is changing;
The so-called marriage circle has expanded tremendously, to as much as 500 km in radius; and
Inter-caste marriage is now more commonplace.
Although officially discouraged by law in India, dowry remains a deeply rooted custom and continues to reflect caste considerations. It places a heavy burden on the family of the bride, while representing a significant source of new assets, in cash or in kind, for the family of the groom. The study team found that with generally improving economic conditions in the ASSBY area, there was a trend towards the seeking and giving of higher dowries. For the family of the bride, status within the community was enhanced by the capacity to provide a higher dowry. For the family of the spouse, particularly if they were entrepreneurial and seeking to create or expand a new business, a dowry provided important resources to invest.
The increasing demands for dowry from prospective in-laws have increased the number of unmarried young women, who in all other respects would be perfectly eligible for marriage. The tendency towards growing dowry demands by prospective in-laws is a negative social development that can be related to ASSBY.
There has been a slight upward trend in what is considered the appropriate age for marriage, to 18 years and over. Again, caste plays a role here with so-called lower castes still holding that marriage at a young age, typically around 15 or 16 years, is socially acceptable, notwithstanding Indian legislation which sets the minimum age of marriage at 18 for girls and 21 for boys.
Religion is somewhat peripheral to the discussion of ASSBY’s impact on the social and cultural patterns of the villagers in the study area. Suffice to say that religion and Hindu sects remain important features of individual and community life, and are closely linked to caste. In day-to-day terms, villagers working at ASSBY performed daily rituals of prayer (lamp lighting and incense burning along with chanting of mantras) with less frequency than other villagers, citing lack of time and/or fatigue.
With the exception of Bharapara, nearly 90% of villagers in the study area ascribe a quasi religious or spiritual value to the sea, e.g. as a God for Hindus, a saint for Muslims. Responses solicited and anecdotal evidence suggest that ASSBY has not had a measurable impact on beliefs and practices related to the sea, aside from preventing bathing, believed to cleanse one of all sins, due to increased pollution and associated health and safety risks in the immediate area of the yard.
on the last
There are several important indicators of change in the attitude towards, and role of, women. In two of the villages, women have been elected as sarpanch (village heads), a status previously restricted to males. A number of women, including two teachers in the area, were of the opinion that the status of women in terms of economic, political and individual freedom is improving under the influence of the yard. Women were moving into a variety of occupations at the yard including drivers, labourers and even as labour contractors; this extended to associated industries and activities.
Existing political structures had not changed. Interviews and discussion suggest that political parties are associated and equated with castes, and political leaders continue to be drawn from the higher castes. However, the study found that there had been a definite increase in the numbers of persons, including women, actively participating in local politics, notably at election times.
A typical ‘kachha’ village house
Standards of living and housing
There was a consensus among the villagers of the study area that overall economic well-being had improved, indicated by:
More local and district transport facilities, both public and privately owned;
Digging additional wells and putting in new irrigation canals assisted by the Gujarat Maritime Board;
Increase of land rental received by local landowners; and
Marked increase in work opportunities and wages.
Traditional dwellings were of the kachha type (clay, cow dung and thatch). The more well-to-do built pakka houses are constructed with tough materials such as cement and brick. ASSBY has generated a thriving trade in discarded shipboard materials and equipment suitable for house improvement, including kitchen, bath and sanitary equipment; paint, windows and doors, curtains and verandas. The installation of an improved electricity supply for the ship-breaking yard had the effect of improving supply to the villages, by reducing cuts and low voltage episodes. Electricity is now available in more than 90% of homes.
Interaction with the migrant workers
There are very real differences that have created obstacles to the integration of the villagers and the migrant workers; these include language, customs and religious practices. There is a degree of prejudice among the locals with regards to non-Gujarati migrants. A large portion of these migrants come from rurally impoverished Indian states such as Orissa, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
Infrastructure facilities to provide for these workers, usually single men but a small proportion with families, are largely inadequate at ASSBY itself. Single workers live in shacks constructed illegally on Gujarat Maritime Board-owned land adjacent to the yard where as many as ten men share a single dwelling.
All of the villages except Manar refuse to let people from other states settle in their villages. Even at Manar, only those migrant workers who have come with their families are allowed to stay. In Manar, houses have been constructed for rental to migrants, although at relatively high rates.
The migrant labourers work hard all day, but at night they are alleged by the local villagers to indulge in ‘antisocial’ practices, such as drinking illegally distilled liquor, drug abuse, hiring the services of prostitutes and homosexuality. Many respondents believe that migrant labourers have fled their home states because of criminal activity and are addicted to alcohol or drugs. Entry into the village by a migrant worker is not allowed and can lead to violent incidents. Single working men are seen as lascivious and a threat to village women. Incidents of petty crime are attributed to the migrants, as are cases of young village girls running away from home, presumably to elope with migrants.
While the migrant labour population
in and around ASSBY continues
to rise, the infrastructure
facilities to absorb them are largely
inadequate. Tensions and frictions
between the local and migrant populations
are increasing and the
number of ‘antisocial’ activities is
on the rise.