He is changing the lives of jute mills workers in Kolkata

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He grew up in the suburbs. He had his heartstrings attached to the simplicity and surroundings of his birthplace. Arka Bhaduri, the young, spontaneous social activist was sharing his story as a change maker. The 27-year-old research fellow from Jadavpur University had his history in students’ politics. ‘You know why I came to politics? That’s because, I never wanted to let go of the imprints of my growing up & rapid globalization is doing it- I knew we need to do something, something,’ Arka sounded imploring as he sipped his coffee. From politics to create an organization with students to work with struggling workers of 4 jute mills- Arka’s story is one of those that will inspire hundreds of others.

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Grown up in a family that runs a blind school, compassion was seamlessly entwined with Arka since he was a kid. ‘When I was working with the people from the working class during my days of students’ politics, I have seen what they go through during lock outs.’ He noticed that the jute mills of Barrackpur industrial belt remain shut for a considerable time span in a year and the workers go through a very difficult time. Deprived of food and necessary goods, the women of their family become compelled to choose prostitution. Arka and his team wanted to be by them and create a year-long alternative system for these people so that they don’t starve even during the lock-out.

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He started working as the thought occurred. ‘Initially it was my brain child. Then I got my comrades on board.’ Arka and his team has gone to these jute mills and talked to the families of the workers and tried to understand what they needed to survive. ‘There were four major things to be done in our agenda- a) a library b) a health camp; we did a lot of health camps there. C) We had also started a school for the children. D) Now we are planning to start a mass-kitchen. We are planning to keep it going the entire year! If everyone contributes a small amount through the year, then during the lock-out every family can survive,’ explained Arka.

He faced many challenges when the work started, the local political force being the major one. Despite the pressure and lack of education and understanding, they have diligently tried to be there with the workers to make them self-sufficient. From the 60-70 kids in the night school to 200 people agreeing with the idea of mass-kitchen: the journey wouldn’t have been smooth if Arka hadn’t got Malyaban Ganguli, Sukanta Patra and Bipro Ray as his comrades. All he wants now is to spread the work from 4 jute mills to more to provide the working class people with a stronger political stand.

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Madhubanti Mitra Dasgupta

Madhubanti Mitra Dasgupta is an MA in electronic media from University of Mumbai, currently residing in Kolkata. Since her college days she has been very enthusiastic with social change makers and has taken part in such activities as and when it has come by. She wants to have her own organization some day.