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Stories of workers in india's garment factories


Lost most of her wages to medical care

"I was 16 or 17 years old when I joined the factory after an agent approached my father. I was promised a three year job and a 37,000 Rupees lump sum on completion of my contract. I was at school at the time and so I hadn’t heard of anyone working in the sector to warn me of the reality.

I was happy with the lump sum. I was not told how much the monthly pay would be. I had to sign a contract saying I couldn’t leave the job before the three years were up. But I left after a year and a half after I contracted TB (tuberculosis).

After a year at the factory I had developed a cough and was getting pains in my chest. My father came to the factory one Sunday and I told him I felt unwell. He then told management that he wanted to take me home but the management said I was fine and that he should leave me and go home. Management took me to hospital the following day and it was confirmed that I had TB.

Only then did the management call my father to bring me home. I wasn’t given any money when I left and was only given some after my father demanded that they give my salary. They give him 18,000 Rupees.

In the beginning the monthly salary was 1,000 Rupees. After deductions for medical and accommodation I was usually only left between 600 to 700 Rupees per month. Although the factory provided a mask they didn’t provide any gloves.

I mostly did 12 hour shifts per day and if I refused an extra four hours, I would get shouted at.

We weren’t allowed phone calls. I had to stay inside and was not given a choice. I was only allowed go outside once every six months as security wouldn’t let us out.

There were around 13 to 15 people in a room of approx 6-8ft long and there were six people in the room at one time as the others were working."


Injured while working in a factory

"Initially I was told I’d be working eight hours a day but in the end it was more than ten hours a day. I worked in the spinning mill for six months but my fingers got damaged and so I moved to the combing section, where I spent a year and a half.

My skin began turning black slowly and the nurse in the hospital said it was nothing and that I should continue to work. The masks were too poor quality and so I used my own handkerchief.

I went home for 40 days after my Grandmother died. I returned to work for a month but then I got chicken pox. I had to work even when I had a fever and chicken pox and would be shouted at if I did not. When I couldn’t work anymore, I went to hospital. They deducted the hospital fees from my pay and I lost a month’s salary.

I couldn’t make phone calls or reach my family. If my family visited I wasn’t told until my shift was over. There was no chance of going out as there was a small shop inside the factory. My movements were restricted and I was only allowed to leave after I was persuaded them I couldn’t work because I was ill.

I was promised 30,000 Rupees but only received 12,000 Rupees when I left. The Chair of the Women’s Commission attended a public hearing and sent a letter to my employer setting out my case but I never received anymore."

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Sumangali report Many of the young women we interviewed were not allowed to leave the factory compound, which was surrounded by a wall 12 feet high and covered on the top with barbed wire.
©Anti-Slavery International/Dev Gogoi

Sumangali report “It felt like a jail in the factory premises. The food was really bad quality and I couldn’t see my family or friends.” Deepika, aged 19.

©Anti-Slavery International/Dev Gogoi

“The security men in the factory stopped my parents and brothers from visiting me. When I refused to do over time, I got shouted at. It was worse than prison.” Anagha, aged 20.
© Anti-Slavery International/Dev Gogoi