According to the recent statistics of the World Trade Organization (WTO), India is ranked third in the world, after China and the European Union, for exporting readymade clothes. In 2010-11, 45 per cent of the total textile export was of readymade clothes. The report of the Textile Ministry on 26 March, 2012 says that India has gained a net worth of 55 million dollars in the last year. Not only this, 14 per cent of the Total Industrial Output of our country comes from textile industries, which is about 4 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The textile industry is a sector in which about 35 million people of the country are involved. These statistics seems to be very encouraging and also enough to appease any Indian citizen. But have you ever thought about the condition of the workers who work in the textile industries? How much payment do they get and how much torture do they bear? Come, let’s see in this report.
More than half the total population of India lives in villages and towns. Our economy too mostly depends on agriculture. But in the last few decades, the scenario seems to have changed, and strangely so. Farmers and labourers in the villages began thinking that to get a better life they should move towards the cities. Now the question is : have the people who went to cities in search of work to earn more money through which they could make their life better, provide good education to their children, succeed in fulfilling their dreams or did their life become more miserable than before ?
Most of the people who are migrating towards the cities are neither well educated nor talented. These people earned money through their hard work even in their villages and after migrating to the cities, they try to find a source of income for which there is no need of any educational ‘degree’. It is obvious that to reach the cities such migrants must be in touch with others from their village who are already residing in the cities and are employed. It is from here that a villager who is uncertain about his future in a city begins to get caught in the web of contractors. Here we are only talking about the labourers who work in the textile factories of Gurgaon, Haryana.
It would be worth noting that a few months ago, the violence that occurred in the Maruti Automobile Company at Manesar and the skirmish which took place between the contractors, labourers and the managers of the company compelled the industrialists of India and those abroad as well to realise that if the exploitation of labourers and their leaders is not stopped soon then it can be a danger for the existence of such big companies. Yet no significant improvement of the labourers lot, especially the contract labourers, was seen after the Manesar incident. Nowadays, Gurgaon has become a centre of attraction for the industrialists of the world. Some time ago, with the financial help of Rosa Luxemburg Foundation of Germany, the New Delhi based Society for Labour and Development did a survey of labourers, contractors and managers working in the textile mills situated in Gurgaon. The survey revealed some shocking facts.
Although the Central Government has passed an Act for contract labourers, there is no one to observe whether this Act is being applied correctly or not. That is why every day a big scam is being revealed in the country. By accepting commissions and bribes, Government officials give permission for any illegal work. Contract labourers are being exploited in the big companies. There is inadequate facility for food-water and lodging of the labourers. The wages which are provided by the owners for the labourers are mostly kept by the contractors.
In 1970, the Central Government, keeping in view the increasing troubles and blatant exploitation of contract labourers, passed the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act. The vision behind the introduction of this Act was to alleviate the troubles of the labourers and to create such an environment in which the contracting practice could eventually be eradicated. But exactly the opposite happened. Instead of eradication, the labour contract practice kept on growing. This can be estimated from the fact that in just the last two years, the percentage of licensed contractors increased by almost 10 percent, i.e. in 2009 the State Licensing Authority provided licenses to 1286 contractors and in 2011 the number increased to 1411. These statistics was provided by a licensing official of Haryana through RTI.
The Contract Labour Act-1970 is applicable to such industrial units and contractors who have kept more than 20 labourers on a contract basis for even single day in the last 12 months. All the industrial units of Gurgaon come under this Act. According to Section 7 of the Act, it is necessary that these industrial units should be registered by the Registrar appointed by the State Government. According to information gathered from RTI, 672 companies of Gurgaon had registered themselves through Contract Labour Act, whereas the number increased to 863 in 2011.
Section 28 of the Act enables the State Government to recruit such staff who have the rights to investigate those industrial units in which labourers are kept on contract basis. These Government personnel must have the authority to check any records, notice or register of the companies. In addition to this, he can gather information about the working capacity and conditions from any of the labourers who are kept on contract basis and also those who supply the contract labourers or who hire the labourers. This Act also enables the State Government to abandon this contract system according to the situation. Not only this, it also enables the State Government to discredit the companies for keeping contract labourers in which the local employees are regularly doing the same work, and can also restrict the companies. It is also mentioned in the Contract Labour Act that the contract labourers should be provided with a good working environment, there should be a canteen arranged at the working place, medical facilities should be present, adequate drinking water should always be available and adequate space for a lavatory and bathing should be available. If all these facilities are not available for the contract labourers then it will be the responsibility of the owner of that company to make these available. The Act also says that during the distribution of payments to the contract labourers, a representative of the owner should always be there to ensure that the contractor is distributing the same amount which has been provided by the company for the labourers.
Although the Central Government has passed an Act for contract labourers, there is no one to observe whether this Act is being applied correctly or not. That is why every day a big scam is being revealed in the country. By accepting commissions and bribes, Government officials give permission for any illegal work. Contract labourers are being exploited in the big companies. There is inadequate facility for food-water and lodging of the labourers. The wages which are provided by the owners for the labourers are mostly kept by the contractors. The Contract Labour Act is being flagrantly violated and there is no one to curb this. Most of the companies ‘eat up’ the amount for provident funds of the labourers. Medical facilities like Employees State Insurance (ESI) are not provided to the labourers, bonuses are so far away. The labourers also get very meagre wages with which they can neither take care of their families nor lead a better life.
Liberalisation : A Boost for Corruption
Our country has gained a lot through globalisation and liberalisation. At the same time losses have also resulted due to globalisation and liberalisation, and the labour contract practice is one of them. Liberalisation has provided a strong weapon for the leaders by using which, instead of the welfare of the country they started taking more interest in filling pockets. Liberalisation has played an important role in boosting corruption. Before the advent of liberalisation, the general sentiment was that the employees in the Government Departments do not work properly, due to which losses were being incurred by the country. Therefore the policy of keeping the employees on contact basis started to grow. Due to this growing trend, the leaders got people in the form of intermediaries who became a source of money through commissions. And the people – both educated and uneducated — who worked hard were indiscriminately exploited. It was because the labour contract practice of the contractors in the Government Department developed strong roots that eventually poor people and labourers also started being exploited in the private sectors. Today, the contract practice is prevalent in almost all parts of the country.