How often do we relate our lives with those people who have constant drops of sweat on their foreheads just to make sure that their families do not go to bed on empty stomachs? How often? The lives of many workers are in plight as they struggle every day to keep up their basic living and survival.Sweatshop is a workplace where workers are employed under unhealthy working conditions, extremely low wages, unsafe environment and long working hours. Workers of this category are forced to sleep on match box sized spaces or at the backroom of the workplaces themselves, putting their lives on risk.
India, though it is caving its way to a developed economy, still cannot attain the title “developed”, as these sweatshops possess great hindrance. Mumbai has the record of having the highest number of sweatshops, especially in the textiles industry. Workers here are forced to live on a very minimal wage, but are compelled to work more than their capacity and interestingly, the workers also agree to this because of various pressure points like unskilled and unorganized laborers including children, management sector that ignore human factor element, lack of accountability for poor working conditions and lastly, the most important and saddening fact, which is lack of intervention from the government on behalf of the grievance of such workers.
Not only are workers forced to work in such conditions, but shockingly, in some cases, are locked up in the rooms by the employers to finish the target. Even a developed country like America, with strong labor laws is still not free of sweatshop conditions. Along with workers, even children are pulled into this heinous conditions because of the above stated pressure points. Around 168 million children of the age group 5 to 14 belonging to developing countries suffer similar situations. In India, child labor is still prevalent even though the law promises “compulsory education to children up to the age of 14 years”. In our scenario, you will find children carrying the burden of bricks rather than the burden of books.
There are various laws mentioned in our constitution like The Minimum Wages Act, 1948, The Payment of Wages Act, 1936, The Weekly Holidays Act, 1942, The Mines Act, 1952 and The Labor Laws Act, 1988. Despite having such laws prevailing in our country, one such example which questions the legality and operation of such laws is the Meghalaya illegal mining incident, where 15 workers are yet to be found, stuck deep in the holes of the mine. Such is the reality of our laws. The Minimum Wages Act, clearly states a minimum wage of Rs 160 per day per worker which is nowhere to be found when it comes to sweatshop workers, who put their lives at risk to even earn a single penny.
In Bangladesh, 3.5 million workers work in garment factories to produce the output for export purpose which contributes to 80% of the total exports. With a take-home of Rs 3000, Bangladeshi workers face appalling conditions like working for 14-16 hours a day, cramped and hazardous conditions leading to the death of around 400 workers in which several thousands have been wounded in factory fires or accidents because of lack of safety measures.
It is not just the unskilled workers who face this plight, but also the skilled professionals too. Initially, the aim behind start-ups was the quest for new and creative ideas. Now the sector is all about revenue, profits, market shares and execution, leaving behind the original essence “work culture”. It is proving difficult for young companies to raise funds as the investors are stressing on revenues and profits because of which companies are pressurized to make more and more money.
According to a survey conducted by interviewing 10 employees of different start-ups, all of them shared one common grievance which is the hectic and tiring working conditions where an individual is so burdened that he loses touch with the outside world. Even taking a tea break for more 10 minutes leads to cut in the pay, with employers checking on the employees now and then brings a sense of distrust and privacy invasion among the employees.
Basically ,they are pressurized to do work specified out of their contracts and put in extra efforts to earn the same salary, which means nothing, but turning a “specialist” into a“generalist”. Such problems have already added to the serious attrition problems for Indian start-ups, which makes it harder for them to attract young talent now.It is high time that the government become more serious about the prevailing labor laws, as it is rightly said that “ the major assets of a country lies in its manpower. If not trained and looked after properly, they can disable the economy of a country”.
Picture Credits : fee.org