‘Poor working conditions’ in the units blamed

Over the years the garment industry in and around Bangalore might have emerged as a major sector to provide employment to the unskilled and semi-skilled women workers. But this has come at serious health costs for the women, says a report by the Legislature Committee on Women and Child Welfare.

The committee, headed by Dharwad Rural MLA Seema Masuti, has said that nearly 70 per cent of the workers in the garment industries are suffering from various illnesses, including malnutrition/anaemic, dust allergy and breathing-related ailments.

Speaking to The Hindu, Ms. Masuti said that poor working conditions in the garment manufacturing units were to be blamed for the health condition of the workforce comprising mainly of women in the age group of 20-40. The team compiled the report after making surprise visits to some factories.

Listing various lapses, she said that labour laws stipulate that every worker should be provided minimum five litres of pure drinking water per day and it should be laboratory-tested once in six months.

“The factories we visited provided drinking water, but failed to submit laboratory test report on the quality of water when the committee members visited some of the factories. The food supplied in the canteen lacked in nutrition and was sold to workers at a high price,” she said and added that canteens in some units had no drinking water facilities.

The report also noted that workers are made to sit on stools causing backaches to them and says that workers need to be provided chairs with backrest. The condition of toilets was also not up to the mark.

Significantly, the report expresses doubts about women workers receiving maternity leave facility. “The factory owners did not provide details of the workers going on maternity leave, undergoing abortion or the medical bonus provided to them,” she said. It was in violation of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, she added. The report lists 15 laws and rules being violated in various ways.

Among the recommendations, it has said that the government should issue orders to conduct medical camps by specialist doctors at the workplace once in six months. Complete medical check-up should be conducted and medicine and injections should be given on the spot. The government should amend the ESI Act, if necessary.

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