TOM PIETRASIK | Photographer

Archive for May 2009

CONGRESS’ VICTORY & RURAL EMPLOYMENT

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Landless labourers dig a pond as part of the NREGA. Madhya Pradesh, India. ©Tom Pietrasik 2007

Landless labourers dig a pond as part of the NREGA.
Madhya Pradesh, India. ©Tom Pietrasik 2007

The Indian elections are over and many are wondering why the Congress Party proved so popular with voters. One clear explanation is the appeal of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) which every year offers 100 days work for all rural households. This act was introduced by the last coalition government led by Congress with the support of their partners including the Left Front.

This photograph was taken in Shivpuri district in Madhya Pradesh, central India a couple of years ago. The woman wielding the axe is helping dig an irrigation pond as part of the NREGA. She is from a landless community and before the government provided her guaranteed employment, her only source of income was day-wage agricultural labour. Thanks to the NREGA, landowners are no longer the exclusive purveyors of work for the landless. The NREGA has suffered from administrative indifference and patchy implementation. But the scheme has at least begun to challenge the exploitative relationship that often exists between landowners and their landless neighbours… and in the process, helped win Congress a second term in office.

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Written by Tom Pietrasik

May 26, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

WORKING IN MAY

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Financial Times Magazine, May 23rd 2009 ©Tom Pietrasik 2009

Financial Times Magazine, May 23rd 2009
©Tom Pietrasik 2009

Here’s the opener for a story I illustrated that was published in yesterday’s Financial Times magazine. The feature looked at a huge architectural project currently nearing completion in the north Indian city of Lucknow. The project is the creation of Uttar Pradesh state Chief Minister Kumari Mayawati. Reporter Amy Kazmin and I faced several hurdles while covering this story including a rather lethargic attempt by officials to have us removed from Lucknow. Amy discusses this in her article here.

Stonemasons working at Ambedkar Park use a hosepipe to take a wash. Lucknow, India. ©Tom Pietrasik 2009

Stonemasons working at Ambedkar Park use a hosepipe to take a wash.
Lucknow, India. ©Tom Pietrasik 2009

One challenge Amy doesn’t mention is the weather. As one billion Indians will testify, the month of May is not conducive to doing much beyond staying indoors and avoiding the sun. While we were in Lucknow the temperature rose to 45C. Election polling took place while we were in the city and the weather must surely have been one reason why voter turnout in Lucknow was only 35%. Fortunately I was able to devote most of my photography to the hours around dawn and dusk; a privilege not afforded the poor stonemasons working on site.

Written by Tom Pietrasik

May 24, 2009 at 3:50 pm

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LITERARY LUCKNOW

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Ram Advani amongst the shelves of his popular bookstore. Lucknow, India ©Tom Pietrasik 2009

Ram Advani in among the shelves of his popular bookstore.
Lucknow, India ©Tom Pietrasik 2009

While working on an assignment earlier this month I was lucky enough to visit the Ram Advani bookstore in Lucknow. Situated in the corner of a large art-deco building that was once home to a cinema, this literary oasis is a gathering place for anyone who enjoys browsing for a good read. There is no attached Starbucks and the store is rather cramped but visiting authors, journalists and academics are among those who pop in for a reminder of Lucknow’s celebrated cultural heritage – much of it sadly lost during the India-Pakistan Partition of 1947. I was only at the Ram Advani bookstore for an hour or so but during that time authors Saleem Kidwai, Basharat Peer and Patrick French dropped in. Here is Ram Advani himself, about to chase up a book distributor for failing to make a delivery on time.

Written by Tom Pietrasik

May 15, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized