Bawana factory fire: At protest, factory workers find some unlikely allies in domestic helps

On Monday, around 80-100 workers gathered outside Kisan Ghat and raised slogans against CM Arvind Kejriwal and Labour Minister Gopal Rai, demanding implementation of labour laws, including minimum wage.

Written by Somya Lakhani | New Delhi | Published: January 30, 2018 1:26:58 am
Bawana factory fire: At protest, factory workers find some unlikely allies in domestic helps Workers protest outside the Delhi Secretariat on Monday. (Amit Mehra)

Before heading to work on Sunday morning, Babli (26), Haseena (33) and Poonam (36) met near their homes in Shahbad Dairy to finalise the ‘Monday plan’. The three, who work as domestic helps in Rohini’s Sector 25, were going to join the protest near Delhi Secretariat on Monday along with labourers from Bawana, Wazirpur, Azadpur and Karawal Nagar. It was their first protest.

“After what happened at the Bawana factory, where 17 people died, we are shaken. We, too, are labourers who work long hours for very little money. If we stand by the factory workers today, they will fight for us in the future,” said Babli, who works at five houses and earns Rs 5,000 a month. The women — who lied to their employers about their reason for skipping work — said they will not be paid for the leave they took to demand “implementation of labour laws”.

On Monday, around 80-100 workers gathered outside Kisan Ghat and raised slogans against CM Arvind Kejriwal and Labour Minister Gopal Rai, demanding implementation of labour laws, including minimum wage.

READ | Bawana accused was outside factory when fire broke out, fled the spot: Police

Vijay Singh (26), who works at a foam factory in Sonipat, said: “I work from 9 am to 9 pm and earn Rs 9,000 a month. If I take leave, the factory owner cuts two-day’s wage… this is what will happen today too. What happened in Bawana can happen in Sonipat; it’s instilled fear in us.” Also present at the protest were some employees of Moser Baer company in Greater Noida, who have been protesting outside the factory since November.

While families of the Bawana victims did not show up, labourers from Metro Vihar and Sanoth village in Bawana demanded higher compensation for the dead and injured, government jobs, minimum wage and better bathroom facilities. “I am the only earning member of my family of six… Being here comes at a cost of Rs 200. From Wednesday, my 16-year-old son will join a factory. I’m scared for him, which is why I’m fighting today,” Geeta (40), who works at a plastic factory in Bawana, said.

On the low turnout, a member of Delhi Ispat Udyog Mazdoor Union, said, “It’s a working day… we will hold meetings Saturday across Bawana.”

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