Story of Birendra – 08-07-2009, New Delhi, India
Birendra’s story is the story of Kanchan workers and the workers’ movement in Gurgaon. Birendra is a fourty three year old dalit worker from Gorakhpur district in Uttar Pradesh. He migrated to NCR when he was 19.
He came to Delhi looking for job in 1985 when he was 20 years old and started working in a tailor’s shop in Badarpur and was staying with a friend. After three years, he joined a factory in Vasant Vihar, Vimala Fabrication as a tailor.In 1993, Vimala Fabrication became Kanchan International. And, slowly the factory moved into Udyog Vihar in Gurgaon, when Haryana government started offering more conducive atmosphere for industrial growth. There has been many problems in the factory like no Provident Fund, ESI facilities etc. Not cutting PF and not giving ESI became so common practice in this industrial area that workers started thinking there is no way they can change these violations. But, when in September 2008, when they were not paid 6 months’ wages, workers started protesting. Birendra approached Mazdoor Ekta Manch with a group of workers from his factory. They were continuing to work with the factory expecting that they will be paid next week. From the first month onwards, management managed to keep the workers work for the factory saying ‘ Your dues will be cleared next week’
Workers filed a complaint with the labour office about non-payment of wages. Society for Labour and Development did a letter writing campaign around the consumers from Europe and United States. Finally, the workers were paid their back wages. But, eventually, the management retaliated by terminating Birendra from the service. By then, the workers were exposed to an extent of unionization which made 14 other workers in the factory protest against this illegal ternmination of Birendra. Finally, all these 15 workers were locked out from the factory.
Again, the lock out case has gone to labour office. Management was not ready to settle the case at the labour office and finally the case under the consideration of Labour Court. Kanchan management used many other ways to shatter these workers’ struggle against exploitation by filing false police cases against them. Nothing could discourage these workers from fighting their case. And, Birendra is working in a small unit which is producing for Tier I and Tier II factories in Gurgaon.
He shares a small 10ft by 10ft room in Kapashera with two other workers from his village. The rent Rs.1020 is shared among three of them. Getting into his room is difficult as the drainage in the street is always overflowing. He has a family of 5 members (wife and four children) in his village to take care of. He works 10-12 hours a day and earn around Rs.4000 per month. He is working on piece rate basis and this Rs.4000 includes the basic and the overtime.No transportation allowance, food allowance etc are given. No PF is cut, No ESI cut and no bonus is given. Rs.1500 is spent on food per month and Rs.200-250 is spent on health every month. (He gets sick very frequently) Around Rs.300 is spent on transportation every month. Rest of the amount, he sends home. He is the only bread winner of the family. Three of his kids are studying in school in Gorakhpur. The youngest kid is three year old. He can hardly meet the expenses in this small amount.
This And now he spends his time to unionize workers in Gurgaon and is the president of a union in Gurgaon, Utpadan Kaamgaar Sangathan ( manufacturing workers’ union).
He gets threatening phone calls from Kanchan management’s side even now. But he is still determined to fight against exploitation of the working class!
Story of Neelam– 08-07-2009, New Delhi, India
Neelam is a fourty year old woman worker who has been in the garment Industry for last 14 years. She migrated to NCR in 1994 from Bhagalpur district of Bihar. Neelam is married and has four daughters and one son. Her husband is security guard in a private security company.
She lives in a small 8ft by 8ft room in Kapashera, a neighbourhood where industrial workers are staying. It is a small room with absolutely no ventilation. Her family shares the toilet and the bathroom with 20 other families. The rent for this place is Rs. 1200 per month.
She has worked in many factories in these 14 years. She started as a thread cutter and until now works as thread cutter. No promotion to the higher grade even after these long 14 years! In the initial three years, she worked with fabricators (normally those subcontractors who work for Tier I and TierII factories). After three years with fabricators, she joined Modelama, one of the top 10 producers and exporters of garments in Udyog Vihar, Gurgaon, the celebrated industrial hub of the country. In Modelama, she worked for 8 years as thread cutter. ‘First three years factory kept me as casual worker to deny the facilities I should be getting’. After that the company made me permanent, started cutting Provident Fund. But it was with much difficulty and effort I could get my PF Account number. The case with ESI was also not different.
In 2005, she was illegally terminated from the factory. This illegal termination was to deny her the gratuity because when a worker works 5 years continuously in a factory, she will have to be paid an amount of gratuity according to the number of years. The common practice among companies is that they terminate the worker a few months before the completion of 5 years and ask him/her to rejoin after one week. She did not want to succumb to the management’s anti-labour practices. She filed a case with the labour conciliation officer. However, the management did not appear before the Labour conciliation officer in the first three sittings and now the case is under Labour Court’s consideration. She has been fighting against Modelama for last four years.
Now she is working in another small factory in Udyog Vihar as a thread cutter on contract basis and earning just the minimum wage set by the Haryana government for helpers, which is Rs.3840 per month. . After paying Rs.1200 rent, it is nearly impossible to manage the whole month with this amount. She has to spend around Rs.4000-Rs.4500 for one month food. Monthly spending on health and education a month would come around Rs.1200.
How these millions of workers earning around the same amount of money for 13-15 hours of work a day are living in the city where they have to pay Rs.19 for a Kg of potato and Rs 23 for medium quality one Kg rice and Rs 11 for a Kg of Atta?