Incapacity, Indebtedness and Illegality: Everyday Experiences of Poverty and Barriers to Better Life and Mobility for a Migrant Community in Delhi, India.

Hay, Frances Lily (2012) Incapacity, Indebtedness and Illegality: Everyday Experiences of Poverty and Barriers to Better Life and Mobility for a Migrant Community in Delhi, India. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This research offers an ethnographic account of what can be learned about poverty and mobility from Bhatu people’s biographical narratives and everyday experiences. Historically nomadic and labelled a ‘criminal caste’ and ‘backward class’, this migrant community from village Rajasthan now lives in a ‘slum’ resettlement colony on the margins of Delhi.
The findings show that Bhatu people’s experiences are shaped by accumulative, interlinked barriers of incapacity, illegality and indebtedness, which leave them most concerned with meeting their basic needs in everyday life. Influenced by cultural norms, their main opportunities for learning are earning and caring roles through which boys and girls prepare for adult life. However, these apprenticeships leave people unable to apply for government posts, unprepared for the formal job market and unskilled for more regular work with higher earnings. In addition, joint-family living perpetuates hierarchy and dependency between household members. The extreme inequalities of power that result not only feed children’s obligations to take on roles and meet responsibilities, but also fuel parent’s rights to expect their children to shoulder their roles and responsibilities on top of their own as they get older.
Bhatu people’s illegality of status is intimately linked with their caste, class and gender identities. These are in turn the bases for discrimination, stigmatisation and corruption in their interactions with state representatives while accessing places to live and earn. Marginalised and isolated, their reliance on deviant and criminal activity is an expression of the extent of their needs, indicating the variation with which different peoples in India are able to access constitutional rights or pursue societal approved goals. Bhatu people’s ways of living and earning are further challenged by substance misuse and dependency, which are escalating particularly among men. The deterioration in health, followed by their premature deaths means women increasingly take on supplementary or sole earning roles while at the same time facing marital estrangement or widowhood. In desperate, often tragic circumstances people in general and women in particular turn to unrelenting community saving and borrowing schemes which attract high interest rates and late payment penalties.
Such struggles lead households spiralling into indebtedness and leave them unable to create and maintain the conditions for life to continue, let alone pursue a better life. Only in a few cases are women and men successful in their pursuit of more subtle, culturally embedded claims to mobility. However, they are only recognised and legitimised within the Bhatu community and frequently challenged in everyday life.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of International Development
Depositing User: Users 2259 not found.
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2014 11:46
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2014 11:46

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