Fellow Since 1998
Occupational Health & Safety Association
This profile was prepared when Raghunath Manwar was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1998.
The New Idea
The blatantly dangerous working conditions that prevail in India's power plants have motivated Ragunath Manvar to organize systematic reforms. He envisions a society where workers are both aware of occupational health risks and able to influence their working conditions, and in which power companies are held strictly responsible for the dangers to which their employees are exposed.To achieve such ends, Manvar begins with a series of workshops that raise workers's awareness of health and safety standards, and that introduce them to the practice of wearing protective gear. He follows up by creating close connections with several workers's organizations that further strengthen workers's commitments to safety. But such grass-roots organizing is far from enough, as he has come to know through years of experience with the complexity of the problem. He has thus also focused on the medical establishment – on its routine neglect and misdiagnosis of occupational illnesses, its ignorance of workplace politics. In collaboration with the Occupational Health and Safety Organization, he instigates re-training sessions that inform doctors about working conditions. Finally, and most broadly, Manvar is directing a comprehensive effort to reform worker safety laws. Manvar has enjoyed great local success, and now focuses his energies on his project's expansion to other communities and states throughout India.