Veerasamy takes in washing for his living. He lives in a small village in southern India where all the inhabitants are dalits -- outcasts or 'untouchables' as they're known in India.
But even among the dalits, there are divisions, and Veerasamy belongs to the lowest scale of the hierarchy. The only payment he receives for back-breaking work, washing and steaming and drying the village's laundry, is to receive the left-overs from their meals to feed his small family.
Discrimination based on caste membership has been, theoretically, illegal since India first gained independence in 1947. But, as this Life program from Danish director Poul Kjar shows only too plainly, it's an accepted part of everyday life across the continent.
Whole families of dalit people exist effectively as bonded or slave laborers, cutting up rocks with their bare hands in a Tamil Nadu quarry. Eight-year-old children -- prized for their docility, hard work and dexterity -- work ten 12-hour days in India's silk factories.
There are an estimated 100 million child laborers in India. Human Rights organizations are now, finally, taking up the dalits' cause and, as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu urges in the introduction to the film, calling for the end of a system of discrimination as heinous as the former apartheid system he and his generation fought against in South Africa.
The producer of this program has collected extensive resources at www.tve.org/life/archive/life18main.html
The other titles in the series are:
1. Life: The Story So Far - How the globalized world economy affects ordinary people.
2. Geraldo Off-Line - Globalized economy affects Brazilian factory worker.
3. From Docklands to Dhaka - English MD travels to Bangladesh to improve community health.
4. An Act of Faith: The Phelophepa Health Train - A group of health professionals tours the most deprived regions of South Africa providing care.
5. The Philadelphia Story - Globalized economy affects American jobs.
6. The Boxer - Young male looks to escape Mexican poverty by becoming a boxer in the United States.
7. The Seattle Syndrome - Were the WTO protesters right in their effort to protect workers and the environment from exploitation?
8. The Right to Choose - Women are denied human rights in Ethiopia and northern Nigeria.
9. At the End of a Gun: Women and War - The devastating effect that the civil war in Sri Lanka is having on women.
10. The Summit - The UN General Assembly meets to review progress on social justice worldwide.
11. All Different, All Equal - Examines progress in women's rights globally.
12. India Inhales - Activists combat tobacco companies that target India.
13. The Silver Age - Growing population of elderly worldwide seeks purpose and care.
14. The Cost of Living - AIDS drugs unaffordable in developing countries.
15. The Posse - Rap group in Sao Paulo, Brazil, expresses social problems.
16. Credit Where Credit is Due - Micro-credit organization in Bangladesh provides loans to village poor.
17. Regopstaan's Dream - Bushmen fight to live on ancestral land in South Africa.
19. Because They're Worth It - Micro-credit, education, health information, and hope provided to impoverished Chinese.
20. For a Few Pennies More - Iodine deficiency causes health problems in Indonesia.
21. In the Name of Honour - Kurdish women fight for their rights in Northern Iraq.
22. God Among the Children - Community organization works with at-risk youth in Boston.
23. Without Rights - Palestinians are denied human rights.
24. Lost Generations - Poor health and poverty condemn people in India to sub-standard lives.
25. Educating Lucia - The odds are against girls getting an education in Zimbabwe and throughout much of Africa.
26. A-OK? - Examines prospects for Vitamin A distribution programs in Guatemala and Ghana necessary for children's health.
27. Bolivian Blues - Explores the success of new initiative to reduce widespread poverty.
28. The Outsiders - Explores the moral and economic dilemmas that adolescents face in the Ukraine today.
29. The Debt Police - Uganda seeks external debt relief and fights internal corruption.
30. The On-going Story - Final episode examines the international community's commitment to linking social and economic development with human rights.
NOTE: A second series called City Life is now available.
Grade Level: 7-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2000
Copyright Date: 2000
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-482-6
VHS ISBN: 1-56029-870-7
"Despite human rights reforms, this film emphasizes that the scourge of 'untouchability' remains an abominable blight on the Indian social landscape."
Timothy McGettigan, Professor of Sociology, University of Southern Colorado