For them no Calvin Klein, only unending pain

For them no Calvin Klein, only unending pain

Submitted by alvin on Tue, 2016-04-26 09:55 Bengaluru: The exquisite Stella Macartney Black Juliane Jacket. The elegant Ralph Lauren striped casual shirt and white pants combo. The exquisite Burberry skirts with the free form flower and foliage design that those curvy women wear on the catwalks of Europe. The long-sleeved Night Garden blouse by Roberto Cavalli a Bollywood diva would wear for a party. Or for that matter, the heart-breakingly beautiful blue dress in Milano Rib by Giorgio Armani.Clothes made for the rich and the beautiful. Clothes made by the desperately poor. Clothes made for people who could afford them (the Stella Macartney jacket costs $2595). Clothes made by women who cannot afford them (monthly salary Rs 6,500 or about $100).Welcome to the garment industry of Bengaluru which dresses the rich across the globe. Which produces labels like Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Michael Kors, DKNY,  and even shoes like Bugatti. The world’s IT office is now also the nation’s hub producing the best of the world’s haute couture.And these beautiful clothes are stitched by women who cannot ever dream of wearing them. Women dirt poor, emaciated, with health problems. Women half-starved, with drunkard husbands and children with ever-increasing needs. Women who work long hours, under conditions that can only be described as exploitative. Women who are easy targets for sexual harassment by their supervisors and male colleagues.  Women, who have to compromise on their dignity and tolerate such harassment for fear of losing their poorly-paying jobs.And it was these overworked, stressed out women who took to the streets of Bengaluru when the Modi government, in latest of its long list of idiotic decisions decided to curtail their right over their savings. The women, who felt that the government was taking away their meager savings to put them in the stock market to benefit corporate sharks, fought back like tigresses, forcing the government to retreat with its tail between its legs.Madeena Taj is one of them. It was a job in a garment factory on Mysuru Road that lifted Madeena Taj’s sinking spirits when her husband deserted her. A mother of three, two boys and girls, Madeena had to have a job to ensure a decent living for her children. She did not know any other work and she just followed what her neighbours did for life. It was easy, she thought. Little did she realise the ‘other face’ of garment factory."The predators will be in the form of production managers, supervisors and floor managers who try every possible way to harass us. They find reasons to touch and talk to us. If we put up a fight, we are sure of going jobless,” said Madeena.Sexual harassment is the major complaint that the workers, especially, women had to deal with. But do they get any support, from the mandatory committee to deal with cases of sexual harassment at work place. “We do not know about any committees to report these complaints. Nor are we encouraged to. We have to tolerate things, if we want a livelihood. That helplessness leads many to remain silent,” Madeena says, with a twinge of sadness in her voice.Nearly eighty percent of the garment industry’s work force is now women, most of them coming from small villages and towns in interior Karnataka.The conditions in the garment factories are, if workers and organizers are to be believed, inhuman.“There is no room for humanity. If a worker fails to finish the target of 150 garment pieces per hour, she/he has to sit for extra hours to reach the goal. So much so that workers are not even allowed to take toilet breaks. We are treated as animals,” said Madeena, as tears well up in her eyes.The denial of toilet breaks due to heavy work load affects the health of many of the women. Many of them have been diagnosed with kidney failure, gastrointestinal disease, asthma, chronic knee pain and body pain.“We do not drink enough water during working hours fearing we may have to take more toilet breaks. But this has caused a great deal on our health. There is no health check-up facility in these work places. Although insurance cards are issued, we ignore health issues, lest we may lose our pay for taking a day off to meet doctor,” she said.Despite making them slog for 10 to 12 hours, the factories pay them a pittance considering the profits they make. Earlier, the workers used to draw Rs 4,000 a month.  With a revision in pay scale following the directions from Wage Board, the garment workers are now paid Rs 8,000 per month. But that is not sufficient to lead even a decent life.Most of them spend most of their pay on their families, leaving very little for themselves. House rent, food, kids’ education, clothing, and other household expenses leave no savings, leave alone anything for the women to spend on themselves. After meeting all these expenses, where the chance to save, asks Madeena. “I want to educate my younger brother and look after ailing mother. I am paid only Rs 6,000 as I am trimmer and have n’t learnt stitching yet,” says Roopa, a worker at a garmen unit in Bommanahalli. Roopa is the lone bread winner in her family.Roopa too took part in the recent protest taken out by garment workers against the central government, early this week. Why, we ask. “The government wanted to snatch away our little savings by proposing an amendment to the PF law,” says Roopa vehemently.The garment workers are not convinced about the government’s bona fides. They feel that the announcement of withdrawal of the move to amend the PF rules could be just a ruse, in view of the ongoing elections to state assemblies including in Kerala and West Bengal.Although, the centre has revoked its proposal, it might return in some other way, fears Prathibha R, president of Garment and Textile Workers’ Union.“But the workers cannot be taken for granted. The recent protest was enough to demonstrate that. We will soon protest against pay parity, inhuman conditions and harassment at workplace,” said Prathibha.That is incomprehensible considering that the textiles sector contributes contributes about 14�f industrial production, 4�f the gross domestic product (GDP), and  27�f the country's foreign exchange inflows. It provides direct employment to over 45 million people and is the second largest provider of employment after agriculture.“Forget about caring for us, the government does not have a data on the number of garment workers,” said Pratibha, bitterly.According to the Industries Act 1948, garment units should have a doctor for health check-up of employees, food at subsidized rate at canteen, a grievance committee for workers and also a rest room. But these rules remain on paper.With such odds staring them, the workers’ struggle to realize their dreams fail more often than not. Madeena’s two boys quit education after studying up to VII standard. “My sons today assist my brother in a garage. They quit their education to support their sister’s education. She is good at studies and is in X standard now. At least, one person in our family will be well-educated. What else would a mother want,” asks Madeena.​