Garment workers battle recession
Meltdown Woes Are Here: Factories Shut Shop, Exporter’s Family Driven To Suicide Pact Many Out Of Jobs, May Result In Reverse Migration
Deepa Bhasthi | TNN
Bangalore: Recession and meltdown are alien terms to the thousands of women garment workers, who only understand there is some catalyst that could shatter the course of their fragile livelihood. The ‘globalized sector’ that employs them has been hit, with international customers cancelling or at least going easy on orders.
The big ones are seeing the fire at a distance, but small and medium factories are burning. Talk is rife about several factories closing and hundreds, maybe thousands, being out of job, but not many are willing to talk.
S Bhanuprakash, joint secretary, Peenya Industries Association, told The Times of India several small garment factories had shut shop due to recession and the severe slowdown in orders. There were reports of a major exporter closing down a few sections in the factory. Bhanuprakash said while it was not possible to plug a number to how many factories had closed, it was likely that small units had been affected.
Peenya Industrial Area alone has lakhs of women who walk to work early every morning, huddle over tiny tables all day long in cloistered, almost airless rooms, and face abuse at the hands of supervisors. The most talented earn about Rs 4,000 a month, a majority barely enough for dignified existence.
Impossible production targets and lack of benefits further marginalizes them. Crime rate is high but goes unreported. In several cases, the woman is the only breadwinner, tied down to employers’ mercy.
The number of women — who constitute the majority of garment workers — who have lost jobs or stand to lose, is in multiples of 30. “Every batch has 30 workers. So even if 10 batches of workers have lost their jobs, it affects 300 women and their families who, in several cases, depend on their salaries,” added Bhanuprakash.
Factory owners deny rumours
Rajan Hinduja, managing director, Gokuldas Exports, said he had not closed a single unit. “I have full orders till February and recession has not affected us. Maybe smaller units have been hit.”
Admitting there was a reduction of 20-25% in orders, Sajjan Raj Mehta, president of Karnataka Hosiery and Garment Association, however, said not a single factory was on the verge of closing. “The trading sector has been affected and clients are being extra-cautious, but full orders are coming in. The inner wear section is doing well too,” he added.
Salim, another manufacturer, said all factories had full orders for the current season, till January-February. The effect will be known only after that.
Reverse migration likely?
Cities are where big dreams are born, and often killed. Post the agrarian crisis in rural Karnataka, lakhs of families set up home on the fringes of the metro, hoping to eke out something more dignified than what their villages had in store. Recession and its ripple effect is driving them back.
Residents in neighbourhoods are no longer short of cooks, maids and helpers. Shabanaz, a homemaker in Peenya, said her domestic help was laid off work at a factory. Many are set to close by January-end, the maid says. Kalpana’s migrant family from Nanjangud is seriously considering going back to their fields. “At least we can try to cultivate our fields there than starve here,” she says grimly.
For many others, even going back is not an option. They are looking out for jobs as domestic help, cooks and others, which could mean a reduction in income. But when hunger speaks, and children are crying at home, these women cannot help but choose the trodden path.
After collapse of sector in Surat and
Tirupur, garment industry moved
to Bangalore outskirts
910 registered factories employ
around 3.55 lakh workers, mostly
Workers mainly from migrant families from interior Karnataka
SUICIDE SCORE IN BANGALORE
2,004 cases and counting, in the past 10 months Depression, abuse, helplessness are some of the prime factors According to National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB), Bangalore’s population has risen by 19% in past decade, and suicide rate by 8% Last year, more than 1 lakh suicide cases were reported in India As most elders don’t have old-age plans, financial instability poses a big risk, becoming a potential suicide trigger and is high among elderly citizens NCRB suicide clock records 96 suicide cases per day by those aged 45 and above
2006: Male 1302; female 706 2007: Male 1575; female 855 2008*: Male 1327; female 677 (* till October 31)
2008 BREAK-UP AND HOW Hanging: Male 484; female 297 Poisoning: Male 217; female 83 Burning: Male 119; female 174 Drowning: Male 49; female 17 Others: Male 458; female 106 In 2007, 19.7% of those who ended life were homemakers