With more than half a million garment workers who predominantly come from agrarian and working-class background across India working in Bangalore, most of us so who claim that we have conscience fail to see the kind of sexual abuse, harassment, pittance of wages and the kind of workload that would put a donkeys load to shame with no one to voice their concern and any resistance resulting in immediate termination from service. sometimes with more than 100% attrition rate and these workers mostly women live in accommodations that are less than a hovel, with difficult family conditions, relations, workplace harassment, domestic violence.
Unions are few and far. Every effort of a Union is resisted with violence not only from the management officials Supervisions, Masters, Floor Managers, HR Department Officials, but General Managers who behave more like slave masters rather than responsible officials also use such demeaning language. It is not uncommon that every women worker is abused and called as a woman of easy virtue more than several times for her work or inability to meet ever increasing demand for more work.
Tragic aspect is that many of the organisations that speak of pride of Kannada, Karnataka, culture, Social rights, some well known NGOs including some Date groups, threaten, abuse, advise, intimidate and many a time resort to violence against the workers who unable to bear the abuse anymore some time raise their voice. Many a time the Unions that take the risk of reaching to these workers who have no support are assaulted, abused and threatened without respite.
The police who are present at the drop of hat on a call from the management, push the workers to fear of State machinery being with the Management and those many times when the workers take courage to lodge a complaint, their complaint is never registered or their patience is worn down by making many workers wait endlessly in police station. There are instances where women workers are made to wait in these police stations by 10 to 20 hours. That elusive Inspector never comes to the office. He is always busy. The Station House Officer refuses to receive the complaint unless granted permission that elusive Police Inspector. By that time management complaint is in place. It is a mockery that those who assaulted workers enjoy the Mehman Nawaji at the police station while the workers who are waiting to register their complaint are made to wait in a desolate corner with everybody looking at them more a nuisance. Just imagine for a moment what would be going through the minds of these workers. Other days they were successful as they had a strong Union and a Young Concerned Lawyer with them. there are millions of instances where these abuses go unnoticed. Heard of stories a migrant boy working washer room brutally beaten and murdered and thrown to railway tracks and the case closed as a ‘suicide’. Another case where a migrant girl was raped and murdered and burnt and ashes cleared as an instance of a girl who ran away from work.
Some time to reflect. All the branded clothes we pride in possessing be it Arrow, LP, Van Heusen, H & M, Lee, Allen Solly, Wrangler, Levi Strauss, Woodlands, et al are manufactured by these workers. While we flash our cards and buy in bulk these clothes, never a moment we think about the workers who have to make a hundred dollars an hour and perfect or fix 100 buttons in a shorter time. They are employed perennially as ‘Trainees’ and paid less than minimum wages. Just remember behind every dress you purchase there is hard less paid, abused, exploited, labour blood, sweat, misery and pain of A Thayamma, a Mahadevamma, a Riyajunnisa, a Deepashri, a Sowmya, a Pooja, a Manoj, a Munivenkata, a Mary, a Lakshmamma, a Akram, a Mallesha, a Swamy, a Asma or any of those half million garment workers of this Garden City that we take pride of. You all know this fact that these brands turn blind eye to impossible conditions and want the contractors and suppliers to supply more for less and threaten that they would move their business either to Myanmar, Bangladesh other East Asian countries or to new area Africa.
If you just think of margins these brands make. EU countries per annum expenditure on clothes is $ 800+, USA $750+, Australia $ 1100+, China at $ 150+, India at $37 per annum. The third world is not the market for these brands. But they produce all their products in the Third World and sell at a premium. These countries are hungry for employment and are willing to work for a pittance. These brands love slave markets.
Many young girls from Orissa, Bihar, Assam, West Bengal, Chattisgarh, UP, Manipur, Meghalaya are housed in ‘Hostels’ that are more than a prison. Each room measures 10′ X 12′ accommodates 8 to 10 girls. With a matron to boot who keeps the clock of their departure and return to rooms. Easy meat for many supervisors, who abuse them as they know not the local language.
Think about what you can do to help them. Those interested please respond. Those who love social media for all purposes from celebrating, mourning, trolling and many nonsenses in the name of expression, think for a moment that you too are responsible as consumers.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Martin Luther King Jr.