The magazine of the art-form of the photo-essay
Apr 2016 back issue
Men at Work Bengal, India
by Amlan Sanyal
A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous! Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
With an ever increasing number of vehicles driving around the country, the quality of our road network constantly needs to be maintained and improved. Add to that the damage caused by ‘extreme and treacherous’ weather. We all know how we get when the work isn’t carried out, moaning about tyre damage due to pot holes, potential crashes due to unclear road markings. Yet then when the work is carried out, people’s frustration really kicks in; blocked lanes, closed roads, traffic queues. What a nuisance! However, do we ever consider the risks faced by the road construction workers that get out on our roads in all conditions, working to make these improvements, the high level of emissions they’re exposed to from close proximity vehicles or from the equipment they have to work with? Recently I happened to visit one of a road construction site in the outskirts of my hometown and tried to document their working conditions. Road workers are some of the poorest and most marginalized people in society. In India, they are mostly migrants from remote villages, often uneducated and unbothered about health and safety.  The workers are recruited from villages by contractors who employ them for the projects. The contractors are responsible for accommodation, transport and pay. Conditions can be hazardous. The wages are inadequate. Women labourers are often paid less than men for the same work. There is no system to take care of children at the work site. Most women come with their husbands, and often with their infant children who are seen playing amongst the piles of sand and gravel as their parents labour under the blazing summer sun.
Race against time.
Work demands physical fitness, strength and stamina.
Handling the heavy machinery.
The reflection.
Conversation between co-workers.
When work takes its toll on the body.
A woman labourer on the construction site, trying to balance enormous loads on her head.
Heavy drums containing tar have to be lifted and carried.
Team work.
Elderly worker at the site.
Kind enough to pose for a portrait in front of my camera.
No safety boots to protect the feet.
A woman worker keeping an eye on her child while working.
Coping with the dusty environment.
Women do the lift-and-carry work.
Tired body and mind.
Time to clean up at the end of a long days hard work.
Men work an 8 to 9 hour shift.
The real Indian hero.
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