The materialization of modern slavery system (Sumangali Scheme)

The campaigns and rallies of workers were emerging fast with different form in the middle of 1980 at Coimbatore, Dindigul and Tirupur on seeing of which the mill proprietors started moving from the alternative ways in fear. As an outcome of this the mill administration with the great support of the police department brought false cases with repression on the workers at the end of 1980 after which the male workers of the mill were sent out and allowed women to work.

The expectation of the mill owners that the women will be very responsible at work without taking leave, rest and they will never become members of any union became true. The women who are regular to the mill were encouraged with prizes like silver vessels, water pot, steel cupboard and cart. As a gradual growth of this the Sumangali System came into practice in the beginning of 1990 at Vedasandhur of Dindigul district and this scheme is well crammed in the textile departments of mill.

What is Sumangali Scheme?

It is a three years agreement between the cotton mill administrations and the adolescent girl workers who work in the cotton mill. The agreement salary under this scheme for a girl is sum of Rs. 80/- to Rs. 120/- per day and for the 3 years to 6 years they are assured to get the lump sum amount of Rs. 40,000/- to Rs. 1, 00,000/- for the marriage. This agreement slavery system is called Sumangali Scheme.

Sumangali Scheme in Tamil Nadu

The climate changes and the failure of monsoon brought collapse to the agricultural works which is the only livelihood of the rural poor formers. These formers unable to send their children to school due to the continuous financial crisis and poverty therefore this Sumangali Scheme gave attractive and beautiful appearance for them to send their young girls to the mills through the brokers.

The adolescents and children from the SC and backward communities, agricultural labor families, orphan and semi orphan families, daily waged labor families and the families with many number of female children were motivated and convinced of this scheme through the brokers and brought to the cotton mill works. Particularly the children and adolescents of 30 districts from south Tamil Nadu such as from Dindigul, Madurai, Puthukkottai, Ramanathapuram, Sivagangai, Theni and Viruthunagar made to drop from their schools of 6th 7th 8th between the ages of 12 to 18 and brought into the mill work.
Our India has signed in the world wide United Nations covenant that as per child rights the children up to 18 years should be recognized as children but here as a cheat there are children from 14 years are made to work. Beyond Tamil Nadu our neighboring states of Bihar, Orissa, Andhra, Karnataka and Kerala also send the adolescents to the mills of Coimbatore, Dindigul and Tirupur.

The slackness in labor welfare act

The mill administration never pays the minimum wages that the government has resolute. The workers are made to work 10 to 14 hours a day without concerned on their actual working hours of 8 per day. The welfare acts of the government are followed in no ways especially ESI and PF. The turnovers of these industries are huge and within a year a mill owner could start 2 to 4 new mills but they fail to provide the rights of the poor workers. The proprietor concentrates only on the profits but never bothers about the profit makers. If this situation continues the Indian garment and textile production should be ready to meet a great challenge. Though India has a pride being a well developing country next to China in the world in the production of textiles and garments the livelihood and the rights of the labors are dying out.

The situation of labor’s at the work place

The mill has prepared colorful broachers with attractive facilities such as lump sum money for marriage, special food, high quality of accommodation, essential medical facilities and a cultural program with a film star once a year for this scheme which like magnet turns the minds of the adolescents to come to work under this scheme but in real none of the mills are able to provide the basic needs for these adolescents.

A same verity of food system is followed every day and 10 adolescents are made to stay within 100sqt. These girls are cheated and they are forced to work for 10 to 14 hours for a shift that is supposed to be 8 hours. Compelled over time work to replace the absentees, not availing leave, forced to work in the unfamiliar machine and sexual tortures. The girls meet with lot of health issues such as stomach pain, irregular menstruation, lungs problem and some of them became incapable of child bearing. They are not given sufficient time for the lunch after having worked for 10 hours in standing. They are becoming like the sugar cane waste after squeezing the juice.    

The status of mill proprietors

These proprietors are able to start a new mill within two to three years from the profits. 1 kg of cotton is Rs.30/- to 60/- and when it turns as thread it costs Rs. 600/- but when it becomes a cloth it multiples to many folds. The proprietors who concentrate on profits and globalization bring all accuse against the labors and forums of SIMA, TASMA and TEA.

The proprietors of the mills in Dindigul never allow to have flag poles, meeting at the entrance and to have name boards for which they got permission from the court. As per the agreement of sumangali scheme the agreed amounts were not given to the beneficiaries in their completion of working period and they were being cheated. Serene Secular Social Service Society has filed many cases for such mill workers among which few were in success and few are still pending that are in follow up.