Contract system still prevails in mills

Officials from Revenue and Labour Departments carry out an inspection at a private mill in Salem on Thursday.– Photo: E. Lakshmi Narayanan

Officials from Revenue and Labour Departments carry out an inspection at a private mill in Salem on Thursday.– Photo: E. Lakshmi Narayanan  

Pay Rs. 45,000 to parents and get their girl work for three years at a spinning mill

‘Sumangali and Mangalya Thittams,’ which rights activists strongly oppose, continue to entice adolescent Dalit and tribal girls, a majority of them under 18, to spinning mills and garment manufacturing units in and around Salem.


The girls’ parents, lured by one-time settlement sum of Rs. 45,000 after the completion of three year contract, which the mill managements offer as ‘marriage gifts’ under the ‘scheme trainee’ scheme, named otherwise by activists as ‘sumangali thittam,’ send them to the mills, which would exploit them totally once they join work.

The mills never adhere to the stipulations of Minimum Wages Act, Anti Child Labour Act and other labour laws.

The taxing 12-hour work per day for six days with Rs. 2,500 per month as wages, free lodging and subsidised food would deprive the girls of their studies and health.

The mill managements however prefer girls since they are ‘docile’ and would remain ‘voiceless.’

A study by Tirupur People’s Forum (TPF) in association with like- minded social groups including CPI and CPI (M), has found some shocking incidents of sheer exploitation of these girls in a private mill in Salem city, which has no name board and proper records of its staff members.

“Many residents living near-by have even expressed their disbelief that a mill is running in their neighbourhood,” says a volunteer who was one among the nine-member team that carried out the fact finding mission on the plight of the girls.


These girls, according to the study, are being roped into the scheme through middlemen who are active in the backward blocks of Villupuram, Vaniyampadi, Vettavalam, Tiruvannamalai and Tirupathur.

“They approach the parents of Dalit and Tribal girls, majority of them school drop-outs, and ensnare them after luring them with advances and one-time settlement sums,” he says.

They convince the parents that the sum could be used for their marriages.

Many parents easily fall prey. The middlemen receive Rs. 5,000 a girl.


The strenuous work schedule in hostile mill environment, since many of them would be placed at ginning section where cotton particles cause severe health hazards to the girls.

“Many of them are suffering from tuberculosis and asthma related problems. They become sick girls before they turn the age of 20,” says a social worker.

Many become the victims of sexual exploitation too.

The team members urge the Salem district administration to carry out a detailed inspection on all mills and garment units in and around Salem to stop such evil practice of exploitation.

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