Spinning mills in the Western belt of Tamil Nadu have stopped using the term ‘Sumangali Thittam’ for employing teenaged girls as main component of workforce, but trappings of the exploitative scheme still remains, according to a Sathyamangalam-based NGO working for betterment of the future of the young workers.
While the term that became synonymous with over-exploitation of teenaged working girls turned out to be shameful for the recruiters, since the system of employment came to be known as bonded labour, there has been no noticeable change in working conditions, according to R. Karuppusamy, Director of Rights Education and Development, that conducted an orientation for mills earlier this week on the working and living conditions of young girls accounting for majority workforce.
As per the norms, the young workers must be engaged for not more than four hours every day, but, there are instances of the girls slogging at the workplace for much higher durations in unhealthy conditions.
Also, the girls are not paid under the latest provisions of Minimum Wages Act, Mr. Karuppusamy pointed out.
Inputs obtained under Right to Information Act indicate that the young girls account for the majority of the workforce in the spinning mills, and most of them belong to Dalit and downtrodden families that send them on their own volition for such rigorous work due to poverty, he said.
According to the NGOs, the young girls who work in the factories must also be considered children until they cross 18 years, and be provided with avenues for academic progress.