Sohrab Hura

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Once a lush green forest, heavy deforestation over the last 3-4 decades has turned Pati into a mountainous desert. Located in the central state of Madhya Pradesh this small village tehsil (block of village panchayats) has been largely ignored by the local government until the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act – NREGA was levied in 2005 guaranteeing each and every household in rural India 100 days of employment per year.

Water is scarce here and the region is heavily dependent on rainfall. The summer of 2010 was one of the hottest people had experienced and the monsoon was also late. One of the many dry hand pumps scattered throughout the region.

Some of the women have to walk for many miles to get drinking water for their families.

Kaap Singh, an unemployed father. Prior to the enactment of the NREGA in 2005, the average number of days of employment per person was only 6-7 days per year.

A wife helps her husband keep away some of the earned food grains that he brought home as his wages when he returned after months of working on agricultural land elsewhere. As there is no employment here except for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) work since 2005 for 100 days in a year at the minimum wages of Rs 100 (almost $2) families that have no land migrate to neighbouring districts to work as agricultural labour.

A young girl in Ubadgarh panchayat. Although one of the biggest, this village panchayat is also one of the most disconnected panchayats in Pati. The closest basic medical facility is over a day’s walk away.

As the evening sun sets and the temperature starts to fall, children come out to play. While earlier families would have at least 8-10 children, these days it is common to have at least 4 children per family. Having larger families not only provides more helping hands with domestic and farming chores but also provides a cushion against child mortality which was, until a generation ago, extremely high. Children are the most vulnerable in Pati. While the local government administers vaccines for Polio and other diseases, it cannot do so on its own because many of the villages are only accessible by foot. The local union has taken the issue of health into its own hands. Active villagers themselves administer these vaccines to children with the help of medical volunteers from outside. Many people, especially the village women are trained in basic first aid so that they can better identify symptoms of illness or disease in the community.

10 year old Pinchhia suffers from Polio like many other children in this region. He loves his cats and holds out 2 of his kittens Manjari and Billi for the photo. He is the youngest of 6 siblings and his parents are over 60 years old today. Pinchhia cannot help out in the fieldwork but is an excellent student in the government school nearby. He studies in class 1.

It is common to find men lying drunk by the side of the road especially in the evenings. IIt is claimed that alcohol was never a part of tribal life but that recently it was introduced into their lives by outsiders to take advantage of them. Today in Pati there is also an anti alcohol drive by the sangathan JADS (Jagrut Adivasi Dalit Sangathan) mainly because alcoholism was leading to a lot of domestic violence within the families.

In many of the government schools in this region school teachers have an extremely low attendance and it is claimed that even when they do attend very often they come to class drunk. As such the local union Jagrut Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS) decided to start a school on its own where it would not only monitor the performance of the teachers but also make sure that the children attending the school are fed nutritious food.

In many cases, rural families are forced to send their children to work at the NREGA worksites out of desperation. 100 days of work a year per household is not enough for families with many members. So while parents look for work elsewhere, children labour at the employment guarantee worksites.

Workers head to a National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREGA) worksite.

An old man breaking rocks at a National Rural Employment Guarantee Act worksite.

Women workers huddle together to give in their attendance at the worksite. Workers are usually paid at such sites on the basis of the average number of work hours put in by the whole group of workers and not on the basis of the individual work a person puts in irrespective of how hard he or she works. With many fictional names registered in the roster by corrupt locals to make money, many of the innocent people putting their sweat and blood into their work never get the full amount due to them. Corruption exists in almost all government initiated projects.

After working at the NREGA sites women workers wait anxiously to be paid wages for the first time in their lives.

Women lead the protests against the non payment of wages. Local administrators had no choice but to pay the wages next day.

Deepa, a beautiful baby girl, a day after she is born.

Her mother Rekha, 16 years old gave birth to Deepa at home because there was no doctor available. The closest basic medical facility is a day’s walk away and no other form of conveyance was available at the time. During childbirth she fell terribly ill due to complications involving the umbilical cord being stuck inside her, but she was extremely happy about becoming a mother for the first time.

Parma Lal, 12 collects stones to take to his uncle’s well where the entire extended family is helping build a wall to pix the pulley. Boys will also help out with the household chores, herd the goats and help the elders with manual labour. Life is not the easiest for the children here.

2006, Duhiriya rocks her younger sister Sarika to sleep. Today Duhiriya is 13, a potential bride. Girls help out with the household chores and look after their younger siblings and by the time they turn 13-14 years old they are usually married.

1 year old Lokesh and his mother.

A husband and wife couple get their land ready for sowing seeds before the monsoon.

At dawn, women of a family wake up early to finish some of the household chores after which they will help the men of the family in tilling the little patch of land that they own. Groundnut is one of the main crops that is grown here and is barely enough to sustain the families in this region. While the implementation of the NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) guarantees each family 100 days of employment a year at the minimum wage rate which is almost Rs 100 (approximately 2 American dollars), prior to this the average rate of employment was barely 7-8 days per person a year.

Children walk back home after tilling a small piece of land.



Only very recently has the economic boom of India begun to reach its citizens in rural areas who suffer some of the worst poverty conditions in the world and need such progress the most.  Over three-fourths of India’s poor live in rural areas, with a majority of this population working as daily agricultural laborers for less than a dollar a day.  The introduction of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in 2005, which guarantees rural citizens 100 days of paid public work began the first large government support system of the rural poor.  But when water is often a several mile journey, health care is a full day’s walk, and agricultural yield has steadily fallen due to global warming, this transformation of rural India into civil society is not only a long journey, but the clashes between public and private interests are surfacing quickly. Hura documents life in a small region in central India called Pati which is not only experiencing the forementioned changes but where the people have been fighting for their rights.


SOHRAB HURA was trained as an economist at Delhi University and the Delhi School of Economics. In his photographic work Hura exposes the human dimension of economic movements, such as in The Women’s Role in the Movement for the Right to Employment (2006), but he also makes personal documents as in his series Life Is Elsewhere (2008), a deeply intimate exploration of his relationship with his mother. Hura lives and works in New Delhi.