Tribute to Sharit Bowmik

Sharit Bhowmik: Scholar, Activist, Ally, Colleague and Friend

Sharit Bowmik

On September 8th, 2016, Sharit Bhowmik passed away. Sharit was a close friend, colleague and ally of WIEGO. For several years, in the early 2000s, he served as Director of WIEGO’s Urban Policies Program.

The WIEGO Team and Board will always remember Sharit-bhai, with fondness and admiration, as an activist scholar committed to the cause of informal workers in general and street vendors in particular. We feel blessed to have known him and worked with him. We will continue to draw on his publications and be inspired by his legacy.

Marty Chen
International Coordinator, WIEGO



“His most important work, both in the scholarly world and as an activist, was his massive contribution to and leadership in the formalisation of a policy on street vendors, which came about as a follow-through of his work on informal labour which began at a time when few labour scholars were focusing on this sector…

"Sharit was, more than anything else, a role model of a new generation sociologist who combined activism and scholarship seamlessly and effectively. He is mourned by his many students, whom he nurtured actively and sustainedly through their early careers; his colleagues and fellow workers who shared his space and vision, by the vast numbers of labour activists and workers whom he befriended and worked alongside. He will be sorely missed, especially in an environment that needs the broad‐based, progressive vision, scholarship and activism of those like Sharit Bhowmik.”

- Editors, eSocialSciences (Read Sharit’s full obituary)


“Prof. Bhowmik was in many ways an uncommon sociologist. He was not for sitting in the ivory tower but took to the streets, to the factories, workshops and plantations where working people lived, worked and died. He had neither the time nor the inclination for ‘outsider/insider’ dilemmas and doubts. He took the concerns of the working people to heart, as simple as that. His scholarship sprang from his heart. He was one of the foremost interventional sociologists in India and also in the world. Generations of trade union leaders and activists sat with him and listened to him, from the tea plantations in Bengal to the workers and unions of multinational firms in Mumbai as well as those with the workers’ cooperative movement with which he was intimately associated. Another uncommon trait in him was his prolific writing and reportage. Labour writing in India has suffered a massive blow.”

- Department of Sociology, University of Hyderabad


“Throughout his life, he remained an active scholar, activist and advocate for the rights of the working class – especially those in the informal sector. He was the founder-chairperson of LEARN (Labour Education and Research Network), which worked with the most vulnerable informal female workers, including homebased workers, in Maharashtra. LEARN is a member of HomeNet South Asia (HNSA) and Sharit was always a valuable and trusted friend of HNSA. Not only did we implement projects with LEARN, but Dr. Sharit, with his vast academic and field experience and a sensitivity to the issues of the working poor women homebased workers of South Asia, was always willing to advise and guide HNSA on a variety of issues. He was especially passionate about getting ILO Convention-177 on HomeWork ratified by governments. HNSA shall really miss him”

- HomeNet South Asia


“Sharit’s advocacy went far beyond research. He began working with the vendors organizations, especially in Mumbai and Kolkata. He became the bridge between the organizations and the city authorities, between the vendors and the consumers, between the city planners and the vendors networks. He amplified the vendors’ voice by writing in newspapers, attending civil society meetings, arguing with municipal authorities.

"I did not meet Sharit often, but occasionally I would hear his voice speak in my head, I would come unexpectedly across something he had written, I would meet someone who talked about him. I shall miss him terribly, and yet I will continue to hear him in my mind, read his writings, talk about him… his voice and writings and personality will remain evergreen. A passionate, intellectual, active life lived for others will make itself felt through many generations.”

- Renana Jhabvala, Chair of WIEGO Board (Read Renana’s full tribute)