Karnataka garment workers badly hit by lockdown

Published : June 04, 2020 00:00 IST

Garment workers on the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway in Mandya, a file photo. Photo: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Over five lakh workers of Karnataka’s garments industry, mainly women, have been badly hit by the lockdown.  The Garments Mahila Karmikara Munnade (GMKM) and the Alternative Law Forum (ALF) in Bengaluru recently published a report on the sufferings of this section of society during the lockdown. The report was based on interviews with 82 respondents across Bengaluru, Ramanagara, Mysuru and Mandya districts.

The report said  that 63 per cent of workers in garment factories did not receive the April salaries. Of the rest, many were paid 30-50 per cent of their wages, which means they received between Rs.3,500 and Rs.5,000.

According to the report, 96 per cent of the respondents said they had not received any “assistance from their employers, be it in the form of cooked food, dry ration kits, loans and advances”.

Factory owners have been seeking financial assistance in the form of a stimulus package from Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa.

The report also said that 75 per cent of the respondents stated that they did not receive any free food from the government while 66 per cent said they had not even received subsidised rations through the public distribution system (PDS).

Radha, a tailor, was quoted as saying: “We had to pay rent. We did not have a choice. Our landlord came to our house early in the morning and asked us to pay up. When we said that the government had postponed payment of rent, they told us to get the government to our doorstep and “tell them to waive off our loans and we will let go of your rent”. In these circumstances, how could we not pay rent? We had to. The government will tell one thing, but we can’t do what they say.”

The State government approved a notification in a Cabinet meeting on May 22 that exempted factories from Sections 51 and 54 of the Factories Act, which regulates the maximum number of weekly and daily working hours respectively. Through this change, the maximum number of working hours in a factory was extended from eight to 10–. Respondents to the survey were opposed to this extension in working hours.

After the fourth phase of the lockdown ended and with factories reopening, there have been reports that workers have been laid off. For instance, on June 2, as many as 350 workers were laid off from a garment factory in K.R. Pura in north-east Bengaluru.

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