The figures on Indian textiles and clothing exports prepared by the Textile Ministry in March 2012 state that the industry accounts for four percent of India’s Gross Domestic Product. Women comprise close to 80 percent of the industry’s workforce. In factories, international clothing giants such as H&M, Old Navy, and many others do not want the status quo to change. Wages for garment workers are not fixed. The minimum wage for a garment worker in Bangalore is around INR 4,472 (USD 65-80) per month, which is said to be 43 percent of the living wage. In reality this is not enough to feed a family. The present minimum wage figure developed from the results of the 15th Indian Labour Conference, held in 1957, would now amount to somewhere around INR 15,000 per month. Asia Floor Wage (AFW), a collective of Asian labour activists who came together to try to create Asia-wide standards in the garment manufacturing industry, demanded a hike in salaries in November 2012. This has still not been implemented. The jobs, and sometimes even the lives, of union members are always under threat due to aggressive opposition by employers. The following photographs document the lives of several garment-manufacturing women in Bangalore.
The Bangalore garment industry employs mostly women, who constitute 80 percent of the total workforce.
Many women also work as housekeepers, neighbourhood tailors, domestic help, and flower garland makers, to boost low wages at garment factories.
Jayamma in front of the Puma showroom on Brigade road, Bangalore. She recognises some of the designs she has stitched.
Many garment workers from surrounding villages commute every day. Kengeri train station serves many coming in from Chennapatna and surrounding areas.
Geeta is celebrating Gowri Puja with her daughter at their house in Bangalore.
Most workers have moved away from their villages and into the city to cut down on commuting time and costs.
Sakamma works as a domestic help and cook after her day at a garment factory in the city.
Some of the factories have organised private buses to pick up and drop off their employees. Most are uncomfortably crowded.
Mallige is packing lunch before leaving for her day’s work. She usually starts at 9:00 am and finishes by 5:30 pm. With growing market demands, production increases and many workers are asked to stretch their working hours. Overtime is seldom compensated adequately.
All factories employ heavy security and the entire complex is under strict surveillance. Many of the women are sexually harassed and verbally abused by their male supervisors. Individual complaints are usually ignored and collective voices stifled by the factory management.
Daily purchases of vegetables, fruit and other household goods take place just outside the
factory. Many pushcarts and peddlars line the
outer perimeter of a garment factory.
Application forms for scholarships for children of garment workers are distributed by the Garment and Textile Workers’ Union in Bangalore.
A pushcart outside one of the garment factories sells cut fruit.
Mallige returns to her house after work. She lives away from her two children, who stay with her mother in a village a few kilometres from Magadi, near Bangalore.
Rudra Rakshit is a photographer who concentrates on working class and migrant labour issues in India.