The women interviewed in the study spoke of how, often, even basic amenities could not be taken for granted in their workplace. For example, time provided to have lunch or drink water was limited and toilet visits monitored. “Many reported that if they exceeded two minutes in a toilet, security officers ask the workers to hurry up.” Many drink little water to avoid the humiliation.

The workers complained of mental stress caused by unreasonable production targets, abuse (often sexually coloured) at the hands of supervisors, threats of dismissal and compulsion to work beyond scheduled hours.

Common among health issues reported were urinary infection, gastritis, headache, problems related to eyesight, dust allergies and postural-related problems. Besides, “many workers complained of being severely depressed, frustrated, edgy and having mood swings.”

Ironically, even where mechanisms exist to ensure better working conditions or report violations, the workers are either unaware of them or do not access them.

A garment worker from Mysore Road told the interviewers that “though there are nursing facilities, rest room etc., work pressure deters them from using such facility.” Complaint boxes are installed, but rarely used either because of fear or a feeling that it will not be addressed. A woman said she was called to attend an awareness workshop, but did not go because she would fall behind in reaching production target.

The study, in its recommendations, says that besides government departments and managements, the international apparel brands buying from the factories need to ensure that “Code of Conduct” agreement on fair work policy signed by the factories is followed strictly.

The study was conducted by members of People’s Union of Civil Liberties, Alternative Law Forum, Concern-IISc, Vimochana, Manthan Law Forum, National Law School of India University and Garment Mahila Karmikara Munnade.

Common ailments

“Most of those who are in the cutting section in garment factories are suffering from lung infections due to constant exposure to the fine dust from the fabric. Those who are involved in hemming and stitching button holes suffer from repetitive stress injury,” said Surendra V.H.H., Joint Director of Factories (Medical), Department of Factories, Boilers, Industrial Safety and Health, speaking to The Hindu. He said that tuberculosis, problems related to reproductive health and occupational health such as back pain and varicose veins are also rampant.

  • Important apparel production centres in India are Gurgaon, Bombay, Bengaluru and surrounding districts and Tirupur
  • There are 900 registered garment manufacturing units in and around Bengaluru, but real numbers are estimated to be about 1,500.
  • They employ between 3 lakh to 5 lakh people
  • 85 per cent of garment workers are women, largely at floor level.

Courtesy: THE HINDU