Juli – August 2013
by Seraina Scherrer & Marion Sottas
1) Sampark – the organization
Sampark is an NGO based in Bangalore. Its mission is to help the vulnerable and poor people, especially women, to gain direct control over their own situation and to improve their lives, primarily through increasing their income earning ability. According Sampark’s ideology, all people should have the opportunity and choice of enhancing their own potential and well-being.
Sampark’s first projects were led in Koppal, in the north of Karnataka State. The organization has intervened across various areas in order to ensure the development of the communities: children’s education, women’s literacy and empowerment, skill training and enterprise development, general and mental health support to women, formation of self help groups [SHG], awareness activities and setting up of communities in order to create monitoring systems. Sampark is now supporting 182 women’s SHGs covering 2787 families belonging to 32 villages.
In 2013, Sampark extended its activities to Bangalore itself. Bangalore is not only the fifth largest city in India but also the fastest growing city in Asia. It is not surprising that there are more and more workers needed in the construction sector in and around the city. The Sampark’s project is called “empowerment of migrant workers for their sustainability livelihood in Bangalore”. The overall goal of this project is to create awareness among the construction workers about their entitlements in various sectors such as health, education, legal aid, as well as financial and social security. Sampark tries to facilitate the workers’ access to these different facilities and thereby improve their livelihoods.
2) Our project
During our internship, we wrote a study that analyze and evaluate the financial behavior of migrant construction workers in Bangalore. We provided information about the background of the workers such as the type of population, their working and living conditions, the availability of banking facilities, as well as the governmental and non-governmental supports. The financial behavior itself was analyzed throughout the income, expenditure, savings, credit and insurance pattern of the workers.
To write this research, we used four different types of information: quantitative data, qualitative data, desk research and discussions with the team. Together with Sampark’s team, we lead 100 individual interviews and 8 group discussions with the construction workers. To understand the point of view of the other stakeholders on this issue, we interviewed members of NGOs, microfinance institutions, the Karnataka Building and Construction Workers Welfare Board and the Karnataka State Construction Workers Central Union, as well as some builders and contractors.
The results of our study showed that migrant construction workers often do not have sufficient income to face their daily expenses. Therefore, only few workers are able to save and many of them have taken a loan in the last two years. Based on the results of our study, Sampark will try to improve the access of migrant construction workers to financial facilities, such as bank accounts.
It was very interesting to work with Sampark’s team. The field workers were nice and help us a lot to better understand the Indian culture. Moreover, they translated the interviews we ran with the construction workers. However, the collaboration with our manager, Prameela, was sometimes a bit complicated. Indians are used to work within very fix structures, what we are not used to.
3) Our time in Bangalore
We did a 6-weeks internship from the beginning of July until the middle of August. This period is the monsoon period. Even though it was raining every day 10 to 20 minutes, the temperature was really pleasant (not as hot as it can be in Mumbai and Delhi).
Six weeks was a good time frame for us. It gave us enough time to travel afterwards. It was not easy to write a research in this time frame since the lack of organization made the different tasks take longer than we thought. However, we do not think that staying longer would have brought much to our research. Indeed, nothing happens without pressure!
Our accommodation was a room at the “Institute for Youth and Development”, another NGO located in Koramangala (15 minutes rickshaw ride from Sampark’s office). This accommodation was not ideal but it is the best we found. We had one room with an attached bathroom but no kitchen. It was more expensive than what Sampak told us before coming. However, it was the best option we had since it was located in a nice area (with restaurants, shops, etc). The other accommodations were located in the neighborhood of Sampark’s office, where there is not much to do.
During our stay in Bangalore, we decided to take yoga classes at “a 1000 yoga” in Koramangala. This school offers different types of yoga at different times during the day. We were very satisfied about this course.
In the neighbourhood of the “Institute for Youth and Development”, there are many restaurants and shops. We often went to a restaurant called Sukh Sagar. We highly recommend this place since they cook very good Indian food for a good price. People are nice and can even explain you what to order (which helps at the beginning!).
Bangalore’s offer for tourists is pretty limited. The center of the city is around MG Road and Commercial Street. We went there a few times to do some shopping and to visit the area but there is nothing special to see. On MG Road, there is a nice bar called “13th floor”, from where you have a nice view on the city.
4) Travelling around India
During our internship in Bangalore, we did not have a lot of opportunity to travel around. Indeed, in order to interview the workers, we sometimes had to work during the weekends. But we still manage to go four days to Hampi. This small village located in the middle of old ruins is worthwhile seeing. There are many possibilities for tourist to visit the area, such as bike tours or renting a motorcycle.
After our internship, we travelled three and a half weeks around India. We started our journey in Mysore, the old capital of Karnataka’s state. Then, we went to the north of Kerala, in the national park of Wayanad. We stayed there two days to enjoy the nature and see some wild animals. After that, we took a bus to Kochi, where we stayed about 5 days. Form there, we did a tour to the backwaters. From Kochi, we took a night train to Margao. In Goa, we stayed about 4 days in Palolem (south). If you want travel by train, don’t forget to book your tickets in advance (at least one month). We took another night train from Magao to Mumbai. We stayed there for another 4 days. Then we flew to Dehli, from where we flew back to Switzerland.