Karnataka Polls: Workers lose as usual
Four years ago, during the parliament elections in May 2014, a picture of ex-CEO of Infosys and a Congress candidate for Bangalore South constituency Nandan Nilekani having lunch with garment factory workers in a factory canteen, had caught the imagination of the industry. The workers were hopeful that their demands would be fulfilled. But neither did Nandan win his seat, nor did any of the demands of the workers got fulfilled.
Now four years later, Rahul
Gandhi, Congress President, also visited a garment factory at Suddaguntepalya off Hosur Road and interacted with the factory workers. Although Congress has won 78 seats in Assembly elections and will form Government with JD (S) support, the state’s garment workers seem to be at the losing end, as usual, as the manifesto of political parties have nothing special for garment workers. Increase in minimum wage and improvement in their working conditions are the main and long pending issues of workers. Worker representatives and union leaders believe that owners of garment industry are united, so they will not allow increase in the wages. Bangalore alone has more than 4 lakh workers in around 1,000 factories, 70 per cent of whom are women. Before or after election, workers are not hopeful about any party bringing in change, as their previous experience is not encouraging and they have been ignored by all the Governments in the past. As per the law, wages have to be increased every three years at the earliest and maximum before five years. But in the state, in last four decades, there have been only four revisions, whereas there should have been eight revisions. In February
2018, the State Government had issued a draft notification and promised an increase of wages from Rs. 8,500 to Rs. 12,250. But in March, the draft notification was retracted. So irrespective of new or old Government, workers struggle is continuing. Another important but pending demand of garment workers is transportation support at low cost. Indira Sarige bus service scheme (affordable bus rides for women working in garment factories) is still pending as various Government departments and factory owners have not reached at a cost-sharing formula, acceptable to both.
Rahul Gandhi seen talking to workers in a garment factory