Factory Workers: Rural Reality
BY ANDREA BRUCE
India is trying to transform itself into a manufacturing economy, and for this, it must find workers. In this case, workers have been brought here at government expense from remote villages, from a population that has never before been thrust into the economy: unmarried women.
The sisters, lugging a bag of clothes, sit with 35 other girls from Odisha who are making the same journey. They have all dressed in baggy purple-and-gray uniforms, with ID cards swinging from their necks. Their parents had made last-minute attempts to keep them from leaving, which had to be repelled with sustained tantrums.
"We will stay a month and train ourselves.
This job is the story of our lives.
The job is as important as prayer.
We won’t fear and we will go ahead."
For the first few weeks, everything is new. Stepping out of the hostel, the trainees are surrounded by men: Men on balconies, men on scooters, men lounging in doorways, staring. At the K. Mohan & Company Exports Private Limited, the girls have entered a world of machines: massive industrial extractors, laser cutters, a rapid-response protocol that kicks in when a needle tip breaks off.
“I’m giving you 25 seconds to thread this needle,” the supervisor says in Hindi. The recruits, whose native language is Oriya, barely understand. Thirty-seven tailors bend their heads, trying to guide frayed threads through a maze of eight loops. And yet, incredibly, garments worn in the West are still made by humans — nearly all of them women, working exhausting hours, with few legal protections and little chance of advancement, for some of the lowest wages in the global supply chain.
Story by Ellen Barry of the New York Times