ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Scholar, Teacher, Activist

From the tea plantation workers in the Dooars region of West Bengal to the street vendors of the country's cities, Sharit Bhowmik's scholarly pursuits and labour activism ranged wide. He was a member of the task force on framing a national policy on street vendors and the committee that drafted the national policy for street vendors in India. He also envisioned labour research and action in a unique learning programme that was designed for trade unionists to build their capacities and equip them with theoretical knowledge to enhance their efficacy as activists.

The sudden passing of Sharit Bhowmik has left many of us disoriented. He was in the thick of his work and had much that was unfinished. We remember him as a teacher, mentor and guide, with one of us being perhaps among his early PhD students in 1995 after he joined Mumbai University, and the other, his last PhD student from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai. Spanning over three decades, Bhowmik’s research and teaching career travelled through the University of North Bengal, Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Calcutta, Delhi University, University of Mumbai and TISS. He left an indelible mark in the field of social sciences in India and the world.

In these decades, he made an immense contribution to the disciplines of sociology and labour studies and to the trade union movement. It was his focus on Industrial Sociology, a subject he taught to Master’s students at the University of Mumbai that led him to conduct in-depth action-research on the question of informal labour. His doctoral work on the tea plantation workers in north Bengal was the beginning of his steady study of the issues of plantation workers. Believing firmly in the potential of trade unions and strongly advocating their role in the struggle for workers’ rights, he examined these organisations objectively pointing out their lacunae, limitations and failings.

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