In 2012 a report by Somo and the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) described working conditions in Indian textile factories in the state of Tamil Nadu1. At this stage it was clear how catastrophic the conditions for workers were, many of them young women from lower castes.
ICN has now investigated factories in Bangalore and have documented the working conditions.2 The report “unfree and unfair” shows once again how desolate the working and living conditions are for those in the textile industry in India.
In Bangalore in southern India, capital of the state of Karnataka, adjacent to Tamil Nadu Deran, there are an estimated 1,200 textile factories. Exact figures are scarce, because a significant portion of the factories are not officially registered and therefore not listed. Many popular brands in Germany receive their products from this region.
According to the report, most employees are housed in factory owned accommodation and are under the supervision of the factories. Many of them are allowed to leave the accommodation for only two hours a week. An average of 12 – 15 people per room live in the lodging and share a toilet. The dormitories are guarded by male security guards. Thus, the people are separated from the outside world, making unionisation near impossible. Also harassment by guards is rampant.
Approximately 10% of employees in Bangalore are drawn by work opportunities from counties such as Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand to Bangalore. Workers must pay for their accommodation significantly more than domestic workers, while receiving the same pay. Since they usually do not speak the local language Kannada, they can do little to voice their concerns.
Although wages in the factories studied were slightly higher than the prescribed minimum wage by the regional administration, they are, however, still too low for a decent life.
The investigation by India Committee of the Netherlands of the textile mills and suppliers found companies serving the European market including GAP, H & M, Tommy Hilfiger, Inditex (Zara) and C & A. Faced with the results of the study they have announced measures to improve the working conditions. However, SOMO and ICN had already asked these and other companies in its 2012 report to provide better conditions for workers.