The death of three labourers due to asphyxia in a hosiery unit at Shivpuri on Monday has again brought to fore the plight of lakhs of labourers working in various industrial units and also the laxity of labour department that has failed to conduct inspections at these units.
Three labourers identified as Sunder Lal, 40, Raju, 30, and Suraj, 35, embroidery artists at Kiratvir Outfits, died when fire broke out in the unit. Sources said factory owner Surinder Singh had locked the factory from outside before leaving on Sunday evening. Labour organisations have alleged that most of the hosiery units in Ludhiana lock up the labourers inside for the night, in a major human rights violation.
The practice of locking up labourers on the factory premises is prevalent to avoid hiring security guards. Labour organisations claim that complaints of such issues were already submitted with the deputy commissioner and also deputy director of factories, labour department, but in vain.
The organisations are now planning protests against the district administration and labour department for the death of the labourers. The organisations claimed that had the labour department inspected hosiery units, no such incident would have taken place.
They claimed that there were several factories where no attention was paid to maintaining electrical fittings, due to which there had been many incidents of fire in factories. Besides, the factories were not taking any fire safety measures, putting the lives of workers in jeopardy. But, the fire wing of municipal corporation has failed to check the compliance of fire safety norms at factories.
Lakhwinder, president of Karkhana Mazdoor Union, criticised the labour department and stated that deputy director of factories was responsible for not inspecting the premises of factories where such human rights violations were widespread. “Both administration and owners of hosiery units are hand in glove, as a result poor labourers continue to be ill treated,” Lakhwinder alleged.
He said majority of hosieries did not even provide first aid box to the labourers.
Rajwinder, president of Textile Hosiery Kaamgar Union, said several fire incidents inside factories where labourers got injured were not even reported in the media. “The laws are not being implemented because there is no one to raise our cause. Labour department has completely failed to take action against such units that are flouting rules,” he alleged.
He alleged that several complaints to Jatinder Singh Bhatti, deputy director of factories, had been given in the past regarding such human rights violations of the labourers, but he never took action against the culprits.
When contacted, Bhatti said inspections could be held only at that factory where workforce was more. “We can hold inspection at units where work force was more than 10 persons,” he added. He failed to give a detailed comment.
Last year two labourers had died in a fire at a hosiery unit at Sunder Nagar.