The men were paid a month’s salary — and then fired.
In west Delhi’s Mayapuri industrial hub, the effects of demonetisation, the GST rollout and the economic slowdown are still being felt by workers employed at the 1,800-odd factories.
The Indian Express spoke to labourers, contractors and factory owners, and discovered that more than 500 units — involved in manufacturing jeans, servicing cars and exporting goods — have shut in the past one year. The ones that survived increased shift timings from 8 to 12 hours.
After last year’s layoffs, hundreds of migrant workers left for home. Those who stayed back spend most days playing cards outside factories, waiting for an owner to hire them. Every now and then, they burn the effigy of the factory owners.
Kamla Pati Sharma (50), who had been working at the quality control department of Karan Motors for a decade, was served termination notice two months ago, along with 54 others. “The owner kept telling us there are no jobs. He had not paid our salaries since July, and then they fired us. The 150-odd remaining labourers went on strike. I hope the owner takes us back; I have rent to pay and kids to feed,” Sharma said.
Many of the factories, trade unionists said, were closed down or reconverted in the last year. Most factories that closed down were shifted to Kundli Industrial area in Manesar. “More than 500 factories closed down following the note ban. Many people who stayed back are landless labourers. Since they don’t have skills required to work in big factories, they have remained unemployed,” claimed Rajesh, a trade unionist from International Federation of Trade Unions.
Chandra Mohan, a management-level employee at Karan Motors, however, said “the workers were terminated because of trade unionism”. “But there are no jobs in the industrial hub. We have somehow paid their salaries, and some of their previous dues remain,” he said.
Among those fired from a metal scrap factory, last year, was Gulab Singh, who went on to open a chicken shop in the locality. But the venture never really took off. “I now work on a daily basis in the Mayapuri scrap market, and it earns me Rs 300 per day,” he said.
Traders at the Mayapuri scrap market said the market suffered a fresh setback after GST was introduced, as they stopped receiving orders for motor parts from UP, Bihar and other states. “Now, only 10% of the work is left,” said the owner of an engine dismantling unit.
Squatting outside her house near the railway line, Rumjhum Devi minces no words in calling employers “scoundrels”. “Malik ko sirf suit-boot waali ladki chahiye.” Several women at the Mayapuri industrial area said that small-scale factories manufacturing gifts, jeans and other export goods have stopped hiring them, and now only look for workers with skills and an educational qualification.
Mohan Devi, who used to make Rs 6,500 per month at a packaging factory, has not found a job since she was fired last year. “The ones that do have jobs ask me for a Class X certificate. I have never been to school. They want a young girl who wears a suit,” Devi said. The only place she can get a job is in Kundli Industrial area — 33 km from Mayapuri. “Who will take a train, several buses and a 5 km walk to work,” she asked.