Faridabad-Gurgaon, India – Three Workers’ Stories and Thirty Workers’ Photographs
We want to change this society, not only because under current conditions our social productivity turns into the alien and destructive forces of war and environmental disaster; not only because in a money/market system, over-production means misery and hunger; but mainly because in the present system our potentially joyful social life is boxed up in daily routines, nuclear households, shift rhythms, loneliness amongst the masses…
Apart from reports on workers’ experiences in factories and struggles Faridabad Majdoor Samachar regularly publishes daily life stories of workers on its front-page. Workers of different generations, professions, gender, … talk about what we do every day. It is a mirror, sometimes we might not like what we see, but it is a starting point for all of us to think about a fundamental collective change…
Friends translated three daily reports: from a 34 Year Old Casual Worker, a 42 Year Old Government Employee and 50 Year Old Electricity Board Worker. A friend of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar took photographs during a visit in the area. They cover the way to work and the living area of workers in Faridabad, Manesar and Gurgaon. We document them together with the three stories…
To abolish the global work/war house will take more than informative exercise! If you live in Delhi area, please be welcomed to take part in Faridabad Majdoor Talmel – a workers’ coordination. We distribute Faridabad Majdoor Samachar on ten days each month in various industrial areas around Delhi – some of the photographs in this collage are taken during time of distribution. You can also participate in the workers’ meeting places which have been opened in various workers’ areas. If you are interested, please get in touch. For more background on Faridabad Majdoor Talmel click here:
34 Year Old Casual/ Temporary Worker: I came to Faridabad for the first time in 1997. First, I joined Autopin factory through a contractor. In the first month, for 13 to 14 days, I worked for 16 hours each day. (I was seventeen at the time.) I worked there for nine months. In later months, I worked 16 hours a day for six, seven, eight days.
Through another contractor, I joined Talbross factory. Here also for six days in a month, they used to force us to work for 16 hours. During winters, going to and from the factory was very problematic given the fog at the railway crossing and crossing the National Highway Mathura Road. I saw three, four accidents where blood was all over the place. I felt sick. Because of the accidents and night duty during winter, I left Talbross after four months.
Then through an acquaintance, I joined Anil Rubber factory. Here for the first time, they had me sign on blank papers at the time of employment. I had also heard that employment officers take a 200 rupee bribe. In Anil Rubber, I worked sixteen hours a day only four days in a month. After six months, I was given a ‘break’, meaning termination of services.
I joined Expro factory. Here we have to work for 16 hours a day, five days in the month. And there was no chance of leaving after 12 hours of work. While working in Expro factory, I had heard about ITI (Industrial Training Institute). After six months, I was again given a ‘break’. In June 1998, I left for my village. That year I could not get admission in ITI. I got admisson in 2000. After completing ITI in 2002, I came back to Faridabad and I am now a temporary worker in Oswal Electricals.
At this time, I am on night shift. In the factory, I go to the latrine. (If I don’t go in the factory, then I have to go out in the open near my shanty.) I walk back to my room. I wash up and then have a bath. I don’t drink tea. By this time, it’s 9 a.m. And for breakfeast, I make roti, and fry potatoes, peas, or cauliflower. Sometimes, when I am too tired, I straightaway prepare my meal- rice, lentils, and something else with it. Normally, I sleep at 11 a.m. and get up at 4:30, 4:45 p.m. If I sleep after breakfast, then I miss out on lunch. After washing up, I go to the vegetable market and have a light snack there. At most, I spend 5 rupees on it. I buy vegetables for another 5 rupees and on returning I sit in a barbershop and read the newspaper there for an hour or two. Then for an hour or two, I study in the room- general knowledge, general science, and about my subject of refrigeration. At night by 9 p.m., I make dinner. Then I rest for an hour before leaving for work.
On arrival, attendance is marked at the factory gate. In the department, the supervisor tells us the work to be done and issues gloves and a pencil. I have to check the production of three operators. I have to check for fissures, indents, fault in the sites etc. There is pressure from the operators that I should hold back from finding faults. Yet, the responsibility of the job is that I do it according to the norms. This work continues into the night until 7:30 a.m. In Oswal electricals, there is no break for a meal and even for tea. Constant work for 8 hours! There is no question of sleep. (In some factories, workers work quickly and sleep after their work.) If the material is bad, then you can’t even take out ten to fifteen minutes for yourself and the material piles up. If the material is good, then we can rest for five, ten minutes and dring this time, we go to the latrine. Otherwise, we go to the toilet after the shift is over.
There are 500 workers in Oswal Electrical factory, but there is no canteen. (The law says if there are more than 300 workers, there has to be a canteen.) We are banned from leaving the factory to have tea. Three, four of us have to get together and obtain a gate pass for one person from the supervisor and send him to the East India Crossing open shops to get tea. Even supervisors cannot go out to have tea. This was the situation in the night-shift of Talbross Factory also- no break for meal, no break for tea, and there was a canteen, but it used to be closed at night.
Shifts change every week. Last week I worked the morning shift. Then I used to get up at 5 a.m. I had to go out in the open to defecate. Then make breakfast and lunch. Eat two rotis and fold four to take with me. During winters, I don’t bathe in the morning. From 7:30 a.m., I work in the factory. In the day shift, there is lunch break from 11:30 to 12 noon.
After the shift is over at 3:30, I come straight back to my room. I bring water and have a bath- supply water is not too cold. If something is left over, then I have that, or I prepare something small to eat. Then I read for awhile. I go to the library in NH1 (a locality) and for an hour, I skim through both English and Hindi newspapers. And return by 7 p.m. I’ll read books for an hour or two. I prepare my dinner at 9 p.m. and sleep by 11 p.m.
For these 15 days, I have to do all the work myself. Earlier I used to give an acquaintance, 600 rupees per month for my meal. The most problemtic is B shift duty. Now I will have to bear this all by myself. In B shift, I return from the factory 12 at night. At that point, it is very difficult to eat the 9 p.m. prepared cold food. It is 1 a.m. by the time I finish eating. I can’t fall asleep until 2 a.m. In the morning, I awake at 7, 7:30 a.m. and because of lateness, going out in the open for latrine is an additional problem. By the time I have my bath, it is 10 a.m. After breakfeast, I feel drowsy and sleep for another hour and a half. After getting up, I have my meal at 12:30 to 1 p.m. and just wile away time. Everything goes topsy-turvy in B shift. I feel loose, without energy. This laziness remains till 4:30, 5:30 p.m. After we have been working for an hour, then the body becomes alert. In B shift, leisurely roaming and reading stops.
I really dislike being in the factory. There is too much fault-finding and lecturing by the supervisor. I feel bad when co-workers refuse to answer a question or talk back rudely- they don’t even consider us human beings. They want to get work out of us at a faster speed than CNC (computerized) machines.
Outside there are also problems upon problems. Water problem, problem in the post office, problem at the railway station…everywhere there is a line. I dislike lines. Right now, I have no friends here. They are all temporary. A little acquaintance, some conversation. Sometimes, I feel extremely lonely.
I like interesting work, where there are things to be learned. I like to roam about and gather information. But in this age, where are such things?…
A 42 Year Old Gov’t Employee: I have been in central government service for twenty years. Before this, I did other jobs for 5 years. To earn some money, I had begun tutoring from the time I was in 8th standard. After I had finished 11th standard, I joined a factory. I worked in different factories- Hindustan Syringe, Escorts first plant, Unimax lab, Belmont Rubber, and Steadchem. (After every six months, I was thrown out). While working in the factories, I continued my studies through correspondence and completed a Bachelors in Commerce. Then I became a teacher in a school and while I was teaching there I got a job in the Central Government.
My husband is also in government service. We have one son. Because of Board Examinations, after 12, he doesn’t go to school these days, and my health is also not well. Therefore, in the morning I get up late- 6:45, 7 a.m. For the past 7 years, I have had breathing problems. For over a year now, a major operation was postponed for medical reasons and then I avoided it because of my son’s exam.
Even in gov’t service, for years it was routine to wake up at 5 in the morning. After making breakfeast and lunch, I sent my son to school at 7. The fridge made it possible to knead the flour for rotis at night and cut vegetables beforehand. So instead of getting up at 5, I could get up at 5:30. After getting my son ready, I would broom and mop the floor and wash the dishes. Then get ready for work. Because of breathing problems, increasing from the dust, for the past three years a woman comes and does the household work. Whether I am awake or asleep, work is on the mind all the time. I don’t feel like getting up in the morning, but I have to work. My husband brings milk and makes tea for us in the morning. I make breakfast and lunch. After getting ready by 8:45, I leave for the office. Work is work. There’s nothing to like about it. Even if there is a problem in the house or I’m not feeling well, I still have to go to work.
Work is from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. First of all, we have to sign in. Then begin your work and keep at it. Earlier I was dealing with the public, but now I only work behind a desk. Because of this, I can be a bit flexible with the work. If I don’t feel like it today, I’ll do it tomorrow, but I can’t postpone it too much longer. There are no constraints on drinking tea in the office from your own money, but I don’t have an habit of drinking tea. Lunch is from 1 to 1:30 and during that time, men and women sit separately. Such is the tradition. In the women’s section, we talk about children, family matters, the rising prices of everyday expense. Someone sings a devotional song. But 80% of us lie down for twenty minutes. Some even take a nap. In these twenty years, I haven’t faced any difficulty as a woman employee. Now in the office there are many women working, but when I was dealing with the public, I was the only woman amongst male co-workers. Instead of facing problems as a woman, I got special attention. After 1:30, office work continues till 5:30. Because I have to sit in a chair all day, I get tired. From the office, straightaway I come home. I’m dead-tired and my husband makes a cup of tea for me. I make dinner and prepare things for tomorrow’s meals. By 10 p.m., we have had our meals and are free. Then we watch t.v.
From childhood itself, I haven’t had time for any interest to develop. Everything is so tied up by routine. If there is an holiday for a day or two, I can do the pending household work, but any time more than that and I wouldn’t know what to do.
My attempt has been that my son shouldn’t have to face the difficulties we have faced. We live an extremely simple life. My husband and I are both government servants and we have only one son, but still we are in debt. We are worried about our son’s exams, but we are even more worried about his admission. What if we have to pay for a slot in a university? To take a loan, we would spend our whole life repaying it. And then my operation!
There are problems. But I consider only those as problems for which I cannot see a solution. In my life, I have had problems at each step. Therefore, I do not consider routine problems as problems. I did not bother about my health- for my job, I have done overtime, and on holidays instead of taking rest, I take care of household tasks. Because of these reasons probably, there have been too much mental pressures. Taking it all into consideration, I am worried about my health.
From my childhood, I liked helping others and my own people. I don’t know why I liked to. Instead of sitting in a chair and doing office work, I like live relations instead. It has been almost my nature that I should not hold back anyone’s papers and no one should have problems because of me. It has never entered my mind that people whose work I do should pay me something in return. In twenty years, I hav not taken a cent from anyone for doing his or her work. And because of this, I have gotten great satisfaction. But in dealing with the public, you need a lot of energy. Of course, you have to talk a lot. You also meet many such people who simply do not accept that you want to help them. In such a situation, one gets tense. Because of illness, now I am doing a deskjob. And here also I don’t want to see anyone face a problem because of me. But government itself is a problem…
A 50 Year Old Electricity Board Worker: Right now my shift is from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., but I am only really off-duty at 9 a.m. because early in the morning, there is a lot of load on the electrical line and some mishap is bound to occur. There is not enough staff there, so we have to stay back and I get home late.
I am tired when I get home. I don’t feel like doing anything. At this age, physical fatigue is natural. But nowadays, mental stress is greater. These days my family is with me so when I get home, I get a cup of tea. After having tea, I rest for an hour or two. Then after a bath and my meal, I go to sleep around 1 p.m.
Of course, I don’t feel like I have to get up around 3 to 4 p.m. Sometimes, it is because noise in the house or noise outside. But I don’t get enough sleep. Because of this, my heart and mind are restless… After getting up, I go and get the vegetables or some other household things. If I leave, I have to go here and there at 6 p.m. It’s 8 by the time I return. These days I get my meals cooked,so I don’t have the additional burden of having to cook my own food. But still there is usually there is something or the other to deal with.
Sometimes, I am ill or my kids are ill and we have to go to the doctor. Depending on the season, there is some illness or the other. On the days I have to go for treatment for myself or the kids, then I have to squeeze in all the other things I have to do. I don’t get a chance to rest. One has to be on duty during the prescribed shift hours. If there is any work on the electric line, then one has to go. Otherwise one has to stay at the Complaint Center. As soon as some break-down takes place, one has to inform the officer.
During summers, there is a lot of power failure. Because of dust storms and winds, there are breakdowns on the line. There is also too much load on the line because of people running fans, coolers, leading to breakdowns. Even at 1 or 2 in the night, the public will come to the Complaint Center. It is because those who come in and complain give us an helping hand with the manual work that we are even able to work. Otherwise, there is too much staff shortage.
During winters, there are less power failures, but when they do happen it is difficult to search them out. Because of fog, there are additional problems. A ten minute task takes half an hour. And sometimes, it is even difficult to locate the reason for the failure at all. During the rainy season, the transformers get burnt. Cables get burnt. Trees fall and wires are broken. The danger of accidents is high. Most workers are busy. Conversations are few. Discussions only take place when people are happy.
When my family is not with me and they return to the village, then life becomes very difficult. Before I come home, I have tea at a shop somewhere. After coming home in the morning, I have to clean the place. Mop the floor, dust, wash the clothes, wash the dishes. I have to collect water from the public tap. Then I cook my lunch and dinner. Sometimes, I make vegetables with bread or rice and lentils or bring curd from the shop and eat it with bread. It gets to be 1 to 1:30 p.m. once I complete all this. Then I rest for an hour or two. After getting up, I clean the utensils and get vegetables from the market…Sometimes, my bicycle needs repairs and sometimes my body needs repairs. By this time, it’s already 8 p.m. And then I have to get ready for the night shift
Life alone is very difficult to handle, whatever be the shift. For the morning shift at 7 o’clock, I get up at 5 a.m. When I am alone, then for half of the week, I am not able to make food for myself. I have to go for duty without tea or breakfast and there is not enough time to prepare a lunch to take with me. One reason for this is the laziness that come in the body with age. Even if one does not get meals, one still has to work. I have to either eat in the hotel or share whatever co-workers have brought. When the family is with me, I get home-cooked food. During the morning shift, there is more work. Instead of 3 p.m., we get off at 4, 5, 6 p.m. Some work or the other comes up so that we can’t leave yet. But we don’t get overtime payment for staying back.