Itinerant brick kiln workers use WhatsApp to stay in touch.
Donkey owner-drivers working in the brick kilns of Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh are paid every Friday, but receive a lump sum payment at the end of the brick-making season. This allows them to buy Indian-made smartphones costing about 5,000 Rupees each.
Most donkey owners are itinerant and may be away from their home villages for many months at a time. The phones allow them to stay in touch, both with family members, and friends working in other kilns. They’re also a status symbol for the young. Using WhatsApp is cheap and may be a spur to literacy for a largely unschooled workforce.
M.A Ambabur Kiln, Ahmedabad. Donkey owners Ranjit, Dayaji and Chaman with their smartphones. Dayaji: ‘I use it for songs and music and to stay in touch using WhatsApp’
NN Kiln, Mehsana District, Gujarat. Donkey owner Vishnu uses his smartphone to get veterinary advice.
Madhupur Village near Agra, Uttar Pradesh. Chotu (18) with his prized possessions.