“Your car has been built on an assembly line of broken fingers”, screams a headline*. “Accidents that crush limbs are taking place at an alarming rate… Twenty cases show up daily in a single hospital”
Every year, more than a thousand workers in Gurgaon, India’s leading automobile hub, meet with serious accidents. They lose their fingers, break their wrists, suffer nerve damage of the hands and sometimes even lose the use of their hands. This happens despite a slew of safety laws and monitoring agencies. With 80,000 workers in Gurgaon, increasing every day, working in over 600 companies, such incidents are only increasing.
With little progress on this front, a team of concerned citizens, realizing the civil society’s responsibility towards workers, has come together under the banner of Safe In India (“safeinIndia”) with the vision to identify and set in motion practical measures to improve worker safety, without compromising on industry-labor relationships.
The first step in this direction is to conduct a ‘Qualitative Research’ to identify the factors leading to this spate of injuries, with the aim to build a better understanding of this complex scenario. This Research will then form the basis for identifying possible solutions.
The safeinIndia team is now hoping to spread this message widely and requests concerned citizens to help raise funds to conclude this Research in June 2015.To remain updated with progress on this work, join our mailing list.
Most workers in Gurgaon are poor migrants, and most of them are able to manage at best a contract job, which unlike a permanent role, makes them ineligible for many benefits available under India’s labor laws. Consequently, adequate support is seldom provided to injured workers, who, unable to fend for themselves in Gurgaon and follow through the post-accident due process, are forced to return to their villages. Besides the mental and physical trauma, they often settle for lesser-paying jobs, severely impacting their families’ livelihood and future and violently disrupting their lives.
These accidents also adversely affect the factories. Loss of skilled/trained labor, disruption caused by accidents, with its consequent drop in motivation, impedes productivity on the work floor. Recruiting and training new workers has cost implications for the factory, which too do not want to see their employees suffer, but very often are part of the problem due to lack of intent and long term thinking about their businesses!
Who's at fault?
While there are some factories that prioritize worker safety and have implemented safety measures, others are ignorant or worse, careless about the same. Workers in such factories are often over-worked on account of harsh schedules and exploitative working conditions.
A high percentage of workers do not have formal training and are almost entirely unaware of safety regulations that need to be followed. Very often, workers are kept in the dark about benefits such as Insurance (ESI) - particularly the rules & regulations surrounding them. And to add to this misery, regulators who are supposed to oversee the following of all norms and processes are often negligent or overly accommodating.
Why hasn't this been resolved yet?
Your guess is as good as ours. This is a complex socio-economic scenario with factory owners, workers, regulators, and even us as buyers of cheap components contribute to the failure of the system.
Without getting into yet another blame game, let’s see what can be done.
Ok, so what can be done?
Before we can talk of solutions, we need a better understanding of the situation in our chosen location, Gurgaon. We have asked Agrasar, a Gurgaon based NGO and our partner in this work, to conduct a qualitative research that we mentioned earlier.
What is the Research about?
The overall goal of the effort is to make a positive change in the occurrences and responses to trauma injuries. The research is expected to achieve the following objectives:
- To identify the factors playing a significant role in the phenomenon of trauma injuries in automotive manufacturing in Gurgaon.
- To document a number of case studies, with an aim to influence key stakeholders to take preventive and corrective measures to reduce the incidents as well as effect of such accidents.
- To suggest few potential solutions/areas of work that would make significant improvements in the current situation (this is not a part of the formal Research but we aim to be able to do this to move to next stage quickly)
How is the Research being conducted?
We have asked the Agrasar research team to compile case studies of 20 injured workers, detailing their accidents, issues after and around the accident and the timely or untimely responses of the employers, contractors and ESI.
To do this, the research team will talk to workers, employers, contractors, worker unions and ESI officials. Each case study will be unique and the details of and the factors causing the event will be analyzed and highlighted in each.
This will be backed up by accounts and opinions of a few subject matter experts, manufacturers, worker unions and NGOs, to ensure that the robustness of the Research.
And After the Study?
After achieving the aims of this Research, we will share this report with certain carefully chosen experts to proceed with the 2nd phase of our work, which is to develop one or two practical time-bound solutions.
A part of identifying and implementing solutions would be creating a communication platform – a website - to increase awareness of the issue among stakeholders, keep in touch with all supporters of this work, keep them (you) informed about the progress, and asking for help from the larger society whenever required.
How Can You Help?
At this point, there is a single call to action for all those who want to become a part of effecting change where all stakeholders can emerge winners – help us fund our Research. We have ourselves already funded the cost of this crowdfunding campaign, the cost of the website and the shooting of a video (thanks to our volunteers!) that introduces the viewer to the situation in Gurgaon.
In return, we will send you a personal summary of the Research findings and should you wish, the full report.
In the Near Future
Also, we will need all kind of support in the future – advice, ideas, volunteers, tech support and more, which we will ask for as and when we have specific requirements.
If you want to be a friend of this safeinIndia initiative, who we can keep informed, with updates and for any help, we urge you to join our mailing list by filling in your information here.
So please come and help us create awareness about this situation and find a solution for it that lasts!
The total budget for the Research and the website along with costs associated with fundraising and shooting an introductory video is Rs.2,65,000 ($ 4400), out of which The SafeinIndia team is already committing funds required to cover the fundraising expenses, the cost for building the website and for shooting the video (Rs. 65,000 or $ 1100). We need your help purely for funding the Research.
Note: All contributions made will be eligible for tax exemption under the Indian Income Tax rules.
BUDGET ALLOTMENT (INR)
The Safe In India Team
Prabhat Agarwal is founder and coach at Aravali Scholars wherein deserving students from low income neighbourhoods are mentored and provided academic resources to achieve their potential. Prabhat personally mentors these students in the two centers at Bijwasan, Delhi and Sikanderpur, Gurgaon in India. Prabhat also is a mentor and/or investor in several start-ups, most of which are in the social enterprise space.
Ravi Gulati co-founded Manzil – a youth-led non-profit providing a space & learning resources for low income children & youth. He also facilitates Delhi Government school principals’ leadership learning with SCERT, & enthusiastically mentors many other youth initiatives addressing a diversity of social issues. Not only is all his work pro-bono, but he also contributes financially from his own resources to Manzil and these youth initiatives. He also serves on the Boards of a few NGOs like Pravah that focus on youth learning and leadership
Sandeep Sachdeva, Founder-CEO of UKIN Global Solutions, is an international banker who, after running large global banking businesses in three continents, retired in his mid 40s to pursue his personal interests. He is now an Angel Investor with special interests in Social Enterprises and Peer-to-Peer SME Lending, and provides growth advisory to a range of large, medium, and small businesses. A supporter of education-centric NGOs/Businesses, he is now committed to contribute to worker safety through the SafeinIndia initiative.
Agrasar is an NGO working in the field of human capacity development and social security of the disadvantaged communities of India. They facilitate skill development of the youth as per their needs as well as the needs of the local industry, and ensure that all those under their programs are placed meaningfully. Agrasar focuses on remedial and supplementary education, in under-served urban areas and ensures that children appreciate the joy of learning.
For any queries, please contact us at email@example.com
* Excerpt from award-winning journalist Supriya Sharma’s article on Scroll.in, dated Dec 1, 2014.