TAILOR-MADE LIVES: Accidents and Discontent among the Garment Industry Workers in Udyog Vihar, Haryana
A joint report by the People’s Union for Democratic Rights(PUDR) AND PERSPECTIVES
On 12 February 2015, hundreds of workers of garment factories at Udyog Vihar, Gurgaon, came out on the streets and pelted stones at some of the garment factory buildings in response to the rumour of the death of a fellow worker, Sami Chand. It was later found out that Sami Chand had not died but had actually been assaulted two days earlier by officials and staff of the company where he worked i.e. Gaurav International, plot number 236, Udyog Vihar, Phase I. The incident was widely reported in national newspapers. This prompted People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) and Perspectives to undertake a joint fact finding in this incident. The team met Sami Chand and his family including his wife and brother, Sube Singh, the SHO of the Udyog Vihar Police Station under whose jurisdiction the factory lies, and the General Manager – Human Resources and Administration, Richa & Co., Amardeep Dagar. The team also met one of the lawyers representing the arrested workers, some workers and worker activists in and around Kapashera.
In the course of the fact-finding, the team was presented with a chance to get an insight into the world of garment industry workers of Udyog Vihar. The team explored the working and living conditions of workers, and their connection, if any, with the recurring incidents of attacks and accidents.
Following were the main findings of the team:
1. Two FIRs have been lodged in the incident of 10 February, one by Sami Chand and other by the management. Consequently, nine staff members of Gaurav International were arrested but are now out on bail whereas four workers are still in jail with bail applications of two of them being rejected. The assaulted worker, Sami Chand along with his wife and brother have also been named in the FIR for spreading rumours.
2. The incident of 10 February was one amongst many incidents/accidents in the garment industry which reflect the discontent amongst the workers and the poor working conditions.
3. The garment units of the area are one of the garment clusters in India which produce for global clothing brands. At least since the 1990s workers have been employed in a ‘chain system’ or an assembly line where each worker is responsible for small part of the work such as stitching the collar or stitching one arm of the shirt.
4. Majority of workers are migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, most of them being Muslims. Despite having lived and worked for 15-20 years, they do not have either ration cards or voter cards.
5. Although, the workers are paid minimum wages as per the notification of Haryana government, the purchasing power of the wages has been continuously falling. The monthly basic salary of one of the most privileged kinds of tailors (Sampling Tailor) is merely INR 6203 after the latest revision in 2015.
6. Low salaries have made overtime a norm rather than an exception. According to some accounts, many workers put in an overtime of 100 hours per month (at present, legally only 50 hours of overtime is permitted per quarter i.e. for three months). Interestingly, the newly proposed amendments to the Factories Act, 1948 intend to increase the overtime limit per quarter by twofold to 100 hours instead of 50 [Amendment to section 64].
7. The factories have been employing various methods to continuously increase the intensity or pace of work—so much so that sometimes safety precautions are not maintained as they tend to reduce the speed of work. Accidents are not uncommon.
Accidents in the industry and incidents of workers’ rage are testimony to the vulnerable and precarious lives of the workers employed in a sector which makes a significant contribution to India’s economy.
A copy of the report is available at the PUDR website. For hard copies, contact secretaries. A hindi translation of the press release is also available.
Sharmila Purkayastha and Megha Bahl
(Secretaries) New Delhi, 04 June, 2015