NHRC issues notice to the Government of Tamil Nadu over reported denial of basic amenities to garment industry workers in the state (21.02.2019)

New Delhi, 21st February, 2019

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India has taken suo motu cognizance of a media report highlighting the plight of thousands of the garment factory workers, who are employed in large number at Factories and Mills in different parts of Tamil Nadu. The news report reveals that many of the factories and mills in the state, which is the largest textile and garment industry hub in the country, operate informally with inferior working conditions and poor grievance mechanism for their workers. The media report is based on the interviews of some women garment industry workers, aired by three radio stations, which are free and broadcast through mobile phones, set up across Tamil Nadu, during last year.

The Commission has observed that the contents of the news reports, if true, raise a serious issue of violation of human rights. Accordingly, it has issued a notice to the Chief Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks.

It has observed the reported denial of basic facilities to the workers, employed at these industries is a matter of concern for it. Toilets, Drinking water, First-aid and Special provisions for the female workers are the most crucial and primary requirements at the workplaces. Denial of the basic facilities by the factory owners to their employees is not only violation of the law and prescribed norms but a serious violation of human rights. The workers have right to dignity. There is a need for the authorities to look into the matter and take action. A national level campaign for cleanliness is going on across the country which is being promoted by the Government of India in collaboration with the states and it includes proper toilets, sanitation and clean environment. Irregularities as mentioned in the news report are in violation of the “Clean India Campaign”.

The Commission has said that going by the contents of the media report, it appears that the workers at these garment factories and mills are working in miserable conditions. There is no formal grievance mechanism available for the workers due to which, even the basic amenities at these places are absent. It has also commended that radio stations set up across the state of Tamil Nadu for raising such issues.

According to the media report, carried today on the 21st February, 2019, these radio stations are giving voice to the thousands of garment workers, whose grievances remained unheard by the authorities, so far. A woman, working in a garment factory approached the radio station and narrated her story as to how she queued three times to use one of the only two toilets provided by the factory owner, for 200 employees where she is working in Chennai. She told during radio broadcast that due to scarcity of the toilets, the factory workers have been forced to use a corner of the mill as a toilet where waste cotton is discarded during the process. The humiliated lady decided to share her daily ordeal and the factory managers have now, reportedly, begun to add more toilets at her workplace.