Bengaluru, April 18: India's IT hub Bengaluru, came to a standstill as major thoroughfares of the city were blocked by thousands of protesting garment factory workers.
The factory workers, mostly women, protested against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government decision to amend rules governing withdrawal of Employees' Provident Fund contributions.
According to the new policy rules, to be applicable from May 1, workers with a job will not be able to withdraw the whole provident fund amount.
The full amount can only be withdrawn at the age of 57, a year before retirement.
The police faced a harrowing time to disperse the agitated crowd, who shouted slogans and even resorted to stone pelting. According to some media reports, the police beat the protesters and forced them to end their strike.
There is already no end to the troubles of the garment factory workers and the latest decision of the Modi government is almost like adding insult to injury. The thousands of garment factory workers in Bengaluru for decades have been fighting for decent pay package and better working condition.
OneIndia spoke to Savitri RM, who has been working in Sunita Impex Private Limited, Marathahalli-a clothing manufacturing unit-for the last 18 years.
Low pay package
As she gets a paltry sum of Rs 8,000, Savitri, in her mid-fifties, also works as a domestic help in a house close to her factory. "I also work as a housemaid. I have been forced to take up a second job because of the rising prices of essential commodities. Before going to the factory every morning, I first finish my job of cleaning and sweeping in the house. It helps me to earn Rs 1,500 extra every month. I spend that money to buy my bus pass."
Earlier, Savitri was working in a garment factory in Peenya, before it was closed. "I have been working for the last 30 years. My first pay package was Rs 300 per month. Now, I am earning Rs 8,000. My husband works as a security guard in an office in Indiranagar. He earns Rs 10,000. If I stop working, we won't be able to survive as prices of essential commodities are rising drastically."
Modi government's anti-poor stand
Talking about Monday's agitation by the garment factory workers in the city, Savitri says, "They are demanding their rights. The Modi government is taking anti-poor decisions.
We are poor people, if we can't withdraw our provident fund money in our time of need, how are we going to survive? With our meagre earnings, we can hardly save. We depend on the PF money for our children's education and weddings. I withdrew a large-sum of my PF money when my husband fell ill five years ago. Previously, I took money from my PF account during my daughter's wedding 12 years ago."
Bad working conditions
Savitri tells us that working conditions in most of the garment factories-both small and big-are very bad. "We work for eight hours every day. Sometimes we work more than eight hours also. We hardly get any break. We have to eat our food while sewing in the machines. Even to attend toilets, we have to take permission from our managers," she says.
"Our work stations are very small spaces, without any ventilation. They pack several women in these small rooms, as if we are some animals. We face a lot of trouble during summers," she adds.