In the garment export town of Tirupur, bonded and forced labour exists on an extensive scale; girl children younger than 14 continue to work and women workers still face physical and sexual abuse, says a sneak preview of a report to be released next month by international NGOs on exploited Dalit girls in the garment industry.
After publishing a report in May 2011 ‘Captured by cotton – exploited Dalit girls produce garments in India for European and US markets’, the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) have conducted fresh field research, including interviews with nearly 200 women workers.
According to the preview released by SOMO and ICN, there have been some improvements in employment conditions at the four manufacturers. Wages have increased and so has the final amount the women workers receive at the end of contract under the ‘Sumangali’ scheme, seen as an exploitative scheme tantamount to bonded labour. Majority of the workers for the scheme come from marginalised communities including lower caste and Dalit groups.