COIMBATORE: Sumangali scheme, introduced by private textile mills in the western districts to exploit adolescent girls, is still present in a new garb, say social workers and advocates.
“Sumangali scheme, under which textile and spinning mills recruited young and adolescent girls on contract basis for three years by promising them a lump sum amount and half-a-sovereign of gold at the end of the contact, amounts to child labour and bonded labour,” executive director of Centre for Social Education and Development (Csed) C Nambi, who was speaking at ‘Consultation on the Issues of Adolescent and Women Workers in the Textile Industry’ in the city on Monday said. The event was conducted by Coimbatore Women Advocates Association (Cwaa) and Csed to discuss strategies to address the issue.
“Earlier, mills used to recruit girls through contractors. Now, they use workers to coax their friends to join mills for work. Many adolescent girls from Tirunelveli, Virudhunagar, Ramanathapram and Pudukkottai have fallen prey to the self-proclaimed schemes of the mills,” Nambi said and cited examples of advertisements issued by the mills, which promise the girls jewellery and even flight tickets.
“These girls are not formally recruited. There is no proof or documentation for the girls, who work under such schemes. They join as apprentices and come out as apprentices. Legally, only 10% of a firm’s workforce can be apprentices. But, 70%-90% of workers at such mills are apprentices,” he said.
Almost 90% of mill workers in Tamil Nadu are women, Nambi said and added that 60%-70% of the women are aged between 15-18 years. “They also undergo sexual harassment at the workplace,” he added.
Coimbatore and Tiruppur industrial magnets are notorious in drawing new innovative techniques in exploiting the labour. … The real estste gangsters of Coimbatore are another notorious.group.
P Selvi, an advocate at the Madras high court, said bodies such as internal complaints committee and local complaints committee must be constituted to address cases of sexual harassment in workplaces. “But, such bodies are not properly constituted. When I filed an RTI query to find out how many industries in Coimbatore, Dindigul, Erode and Tirupur have constituted such committees, very few firms were found to have them,” she said.
Women advocates should make the firms aware about the need to constitute such committees and offer to be part of them, so that they can address issues pertaining to women more effectively, she added.