“We were always told one must work to survive, but for the first time we witnessed a situation where to stay alive, one must stop working.”— A factory worker in Delhi

(Our friend and comrade Anumeha Yadav interviewed male and female workers in different industries about their experiences during and after Covid. We document these interviews here. We engaged in similar interviews here in the UK, if you haven’t read them yet, check out the summary)

When the central government announced a lockdown with four hours-notice on March 24th, workers responded in multiple ways. Some queued up for hours to get food rations as relief, others walked or cycled over hundreds of kilometers, leaving slums and the work-sites they reside in, to return to villages for wheat harvest or paddy planting, or to be with their families during a health emergency. Most of these workers lacked any formal contracts and association. But they organised at work-sites to demand being allowed to return to their homes in villages. At many sites, the agitations even turned violent. The government was pressured to run special trains to labour-surplus regions in north and east India.

After June 2020, work steadily resumed at construction sites, commercial establishments including shops, malls, factories, workshops, offices, though with changes. The coronavirus pandemic strained international links in production, and the movement of people across the globe for daily business. The State as well as corporations recalibrated production. Firms cut back operations in some areas, but also expanded into new markets and opportunities, such as in bio-tech, or home deliveries.

Organizations used the flux created by Covid-19 to trim the workforce, exacerbating economic insecurity in the midst of a health emergency. At the same time, some employers expressed concerns about availability of specialized workers, and whether or when skilled workers would return to work, whether to operate furnaces, or in textile mills.

Besides the question of who will pay for and who will risk their lives during the pandemic, a public debate around work emerged organically: Who are “essential workers” and what conditions do they work in? Why are workers most critical for social well-being earning only poverty wages and in economic precarity?

After a complete disruption of the economic status quo, the COVID pandemic also offered a chance to reflect. The pandemic, the lockdown and its aftermath revealed the extreme inequalities around us. It posed some questions on whether we will build back for social justice and greater wellbeing, and if firms would acknowledge that gains from production need to be shared more fairly? As workers returned to urban and semi urban work sites to perform essential work, were they able to better negotiate the term and conditions they work in? Did the crisis undermine workers’ acceptance of the sharp divisions and hierarchy between manual and intellectual labour?

Employers reviewed and redesigned production plans across physical space in some ways. In other places, they also devised new ways of watching workers.
Workers too re-evaluated work, including their own consumption, productivity, work ethics, skills, needs, and their alternatives: What is important to us when our lives are under threat? What can we do without? Where have we found cooperation and connection? Some workers experienced an unprecedented crisis, some gained new perspectives, and many built neighbourhood support networks and initiatives to survive the crisis. Their experiences were not homogenous and varied widely depending on gender, age, occupation, mobility, access to nature and livelihood alternatives, access to public services and extent of dependence on wage-work for survival.

While there is vital information on the quantitative changes in economic activities and employment from multiple surveys on income, earnings, savings, there is still not enough known about workers’ experiences and insights, and how various workers are responding and rebuilding their lives and livelihoods.

These interviews – conducted between July 1 and November 7, 2020 – with a cross section of workers in and around Delhi including Manesar and Faridabad, captures how workers view their work, how this has changed in the wake of the pandemic, , and the transitions in their work and workplaces.

Profile of workers interviewed

  1. Metal workers in Okhla, Delhi, fabricator and factory workers
  2. Scrap collector
  3. “Temp” worker in a large automobile factory
  4. Woman worker in electronics factory
  5. Electrical factory worker
  6. Woman skill trainee
  7. Automotive parts contract worker

Questions included:

What is the work? How do you describe the work you do?
Could you describe how office/ workplace routine changed after lockdown?
Were isolation or distancing measures put in place? How did they affect the work hours and routine?
What happened when the workplace shut down or work time got reduced?
In workshops/factories: What kind of plant is it? Have they revamped the plant in any way after opening again?
Were you laid off and called back, or did you join afresh?
How have work hours changed after opening up after lockdown?
Is there a union where you work?
How did employers monitor work and any changes after re-opening after lockdown?
Do you get sick leave? Did this policy change during the pandemic?
Do you have a view on how labour laws were changed during the pandemic?
Were they any instances of social cooperation around in the pandemic?

*** ONE

Metal fabricator worker

I work in a metal fabricator workshop, a five minute walk from where I live in a slum in Delhi. I have worked at the fabricator for four years.

Earlier, I worked six years in a metal ware export house as a permanent worker. But the export factory removed me and two colleagues from our jobs. We filed a court case in 2018 against our wrongful dismissal by the company.

The slum has many metal polish fabricators units, such as the one I work in now. In fact, it is the primary livelihood here. A regular work day is eight to ten hours, from 9 AM onwards. I hold metalware, such as – steel, aluminum, brass, copper, iron – metal parts used in large chandeliers and decoration pieces, in my hands to polish it on a machine.

There are three of us in the workshop. It gets very hot in the workshop, the machine I have to hold also gets very hot. If I am polishing aluminum, then it is even worse, it splinters and emits a lot of dusts and pollutants. Behaal ho jaate hain (One feels drained in this work).

When the Corona pandemic began, we worked till March 23th, a day before the lockdown. Then the fabricator workshop shut till May.

Work has restarted since May 11th. It is now July. It runs all day, in the same manner as earlier. Earlier, we did overtime work for four hours daily, from 5pm to about 9pm, now that option is not there. On a few days, when there are more orders, we work two hours overtime, that is all.

My wife and children live in Faizabad (Ayodhya) in Uttar Pradesh and I have not gone back in lockdown. I feel I have no tension. Those colleagues further east from Jaunpur, Azamgarh, whose families live here with them in Delhi, they may be tense. I am in regular touch with my permanent worker colleagues in my old workplace from eight years ago. They are having the hardest time right now. The company is treating them like deadweight, or debris, making every effort to oust them from their jobs after it has re-opened after the lockdown.

I joke with them – “Hum log theek ho gaye, nikaal diya, baahar kar diya, sukoon hai (We are okay now, we have been removed, fired and now we have no tension)” – that we got redeemed, removed earlier from our so-called permanent jobs. As we have already been thrown out, that is its own kind of peace. The only challenge is that the labour court has kept us in limbo. It simply postpones the dates, no actual hearings have taken place for two years since three of us who were removed filed a case in 2018.

If the legal case against my former employer was not on, I would have said “Bye Bye” to Delhi. Then I would go home and farm or work. My wife worked with me in Delhi till 10 years back, in cloth factories and workshops. From our savings since 1980, when we first came here — and earlier, supplies were cheaper, now it is as if prices are on fire — we have built four small shops on the village road, though they do not have roofs yet. We have to erect the roof, and many other errands are pending. My wife is looking after all this back home.

When he closed down the fabricator due to lockdown, the owner paid us only ₹ 1500, about one tenth of our pay, for the three weeks we had worked in March. He paid us nothing in April. When he re-opened the workshop on May 11, that month he paid us nothing, then, at the end of June he paid us one month’s pay for 50 days’ work.

After my employer re-opened the fabricator after the lockdown, work is the same in intensity as before. Our fabricator workshop gets business from many entities. Metalware exporters and manufacturers had made material before the lockdown and it is now coming to us to polish. After working 8-10 hours work-shift, I cook dinner for myself by 10 pm. Then I am on the mobile phone and drift to sleep. It is so exhausting, I have trouble waking up without an alarm the next day.

The lockdown showed that no one may know how, when, time may change, and in what form. It showed that one has to stay alert.

What happened now earlier took place once in America in 1920. There was a pandemic in America. Was it SARS ( Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), I am not sure. But there was a pandemic earlier then as well. What is different is this time it is affecting the world.

What is going on is making humans change their nature, their interactions. Is it for the first time that to continue to live, humans have had to stop work? We were always told one must work to survive, but for the first time we witnessed a situation where to stay alive, one must stop working. Is that not so?

Usually, we worry that if I do not go to work one day, I will lose my pay, my boss will be angry, or something else bad may happen. And now? Now when a lockdown got declared we had to stop work 40-48 days and stay at home. Now, when someone asks for one month leave, the employer says take two months and come when I call. “Ab seedha ulta ho raha hai (The world turned upside down)”.

During the lockdown, as I stayed back in Delhi, there was nowhere to go, nothing to do. I would wake up at ease, cook and eat, and go back to sleep. The work I do is exhausting, it makes the body ache. I rested. During lockdown, I would wake up on my own after a full sleep.

Everyone reduced their work, their expenses, everything. They reduced their “shauq” pleasures — clothes, shoes, leisure TV, mobile etc etc. Money is at the root of everything. Only when one has money may one think, I want to do this, and that.

I believe what has happened punctured humans’ ego. It punctured everyone’s “main hoon”, their grand sense of self. It ended the conversation around “I” alone, that these kinds of things happen sometimes. “Ab dekho aage aage kya hota hai (Now, let’s see what happens)”.

One thing is, that a problem befalls an individual, but this is different, this affects everyone, across the world.

The other key feature the pandemic showed was about demand and supply. When there was a demand for something, only then that work was essential and would go on. “Baat yeh hai” (That was the thing).. It would take a long time for things to change in that fashion though, towards essential work on demand.

The lockdowns showed humans how to live, that if you do not get work for a month or two, you can still live, whether in a city or in a village.

I did not get the government grains during lockdown. The government favours those with money, all rules and laws are to suit their interests. For instance, in lockdown, when trains were closed for people, we heard more than 100 trains will be sold to private firms, and only a few train guards and drivers will be retained. Train fares may rise. “Jo ameer hai who aur ameer, jo gareeb hai woh aur gareeb (The rich will be richer, the poor will be made poorer)”.

I managed in the lockdown. Look at it this way, in the 40 days period or so, when lockdown began and ended, the fabricator owner paid me only ₹ 1,500. That was it. I managed my expenses. I had my rented room. I had a small shop as a back-up in the village for the future. The landlord stayed quiet, he did not ask for money for rent. I had never thought that would happen, but he did not ask. So, in ₹ 1,500 I managed for more than a month and a half.

I had some rations, flour, rice, dal from earlier. The main question was of vegetables. I thought let us see if one can manage eating vegetables worth ₹ 10 every day. So, sometimes my neighbour bought vegetables worth ₹ 10, other times I got it. That is how we survived.


*** TWO

Scrap collector

I am 60 years old and live in Mongolpuri, a working class neighbourhood in north Delhi.

When 2020 began, I and my family were very occupied with protesting against the new citizenship laws which we find discriminatory. Then slowly, by the end of February an atmosphere of fear existed among the residents, that if they continued to protest, they may get infected with COVID-19, or that they may be threatened with violence. So they had to get up.

I understand that COVID-19 is a serious disease, but I felt a lot of hype too was created around it.

Because of the pandemic, doors and windows were shut on scrap dealers like me. When I began work in May, when some movement on the streets was allowed by the police, I struggled a lot to earn. I would make rounds of colonies in Delhi, call out “Kabaadi”, to collect scrap from houses but no one heard me, no one called out back to me like earlier to stop and sell scrap – glass bottles, newspapers, tin cans – to recycle. They were terrified that a pandemic is going on. It impacted my work very severely for months.

Earlier, they would call out, some one or two would even offer water or tea or a slice of bread once in a while. But now, they kept their doors shut for weeks terrified of the disease.

I have to wear a mask as the police will impose a fine if you don’t wear one, but I did not feel any fear of it as I think to myself that we all have to die sometime, some sooner, some a bit later, after all. One can only hope to die in peace, not like a wretched being.

I came to Delhi 30 years back from Atus Panwari, a village next to Agra. I was an orphan and I did not go to school. My maternal grandmother raised me and arranged my marriage. I pedaled a rickshaw in Agra for some years. Then after my grandmother died, my uncles told me to manage on my own and look for work in a city like Delhi. Then, I had to come here in distress.

I pedaled a rickshaw for 15 years. Bus fares were very low then, so many would opt to go by bus, but sometimes they took rickshaws.

As I grew old, I had less strength and switched to this scrap work.

Someone taught me kabaadi work. He said “You have little strength now, you will die pulling this rickshaw, now do some work of your own”. Some days you find and are able to buy scrap, some days you don’t, but it overall still works out and I have survived that way. I earn between ₹ 150 to ₹200 or nothing on some days.

On a work day, I wake up before 5 AM, go to the bus stop, take the bus from my house at 5:30 AMto travel to richer areas of Delhi. The bus ride is two hours long. When I reach the posh area, I collect my bicycle which I leave parked overnight at a religious place, the caretaker there is a friend. I do rounds on the bicycle from 7 AM to 1 PM, break for lunch, and then deliver the scrap to a scrap shop. I then park my bicycle in the same spot and take the bus back and it is a two hour ride back home.

I cycle almost 20 kilometers every day at the age of 60. It is tiring to do every day. When I go to sleep, it is a struggle to wake up the next morning on time.

In the lockdown, I had to stay inside the house for three months. It would have been some good rest, but I had to queue up 3 to 4 hours for food every day then that too was exhausting, to stand that long. So I got no proper rest.

We would queue up from 7 AM at the government school for the food the state government was distributing. At the end of it, we would collect some kind of lentils. But what else could one do?

Currently, while the pandemic is on, the rate for scrap is that I buy a kilo at Rs 6 and sell it further at the shop at Rs 7 per kilo. Earlier, last year, it had increased so I was selling it at Rs 9-10, but right now goods are not going through easily. The scrap dealer is not able to sell it further, as the transportation chain is disrupted.

Day before yesterday, a family in Hauz Khas, a posh colony in Delhi sold me 31 kilo scrap of newspaper. I paid them Rs 180 for it at Rs 6 a kilo, they agreed to forgo one kilo’s payment. I then sold it to the scrap shop owner for Rs 7 a kilo, earning Rs 30 on the 31 kilo. Then I went home. Two days earlier, someone had sold 20 kilo scrap, and I made Rs 20 off in the margins. Yesterday, I got no scrap at all.

Most households insist on a good price for their scrap, it is their property, this scrap, so of course they want a good price for it. There are 30-40 of us kabaadiwalas scrap dealers cycling inside the same colonies, so if I don’t convince them to sell to us they will find another buyer. There is competition amongst us.

Also, some of the rich have chauffeurs or drivers. In some cases, it is their drivers who sell the scrap and earn money by directly selling it to the scrap dealer, one layer above us, and cut us out. That way the driver also earns extra money. If he sells scrap for ₹ 500, he will come back and tell the employer that he got Rs 300 for the scrap, so he can keep ₹ 200. That is his income for transporting the scrap.

Also, two three years back, a compulsory pass or ID system started in many residential colonies. Police are also more suspicious of scrap buyers than they were perhaps even a couple of years back.

The Resident Welfare Associations crack down on any scrap buyer like me who enters without a pass, and now they have become even stricter in the pandemic. And because of COVID-19 fears, the mansion owners are stricter, they say: “Hey, please stay away, stay far, maintain distance!”



A temporary worker in a multinational corporation making automobiles

I am 25 years old. I work as a contract worker in Haryana. The factory where I work in – one of India’s largest automobile factories – terms contract workers like me as a “Temporary Worker -TW 1, TW 2” and so on till TW 3, based on how many times it has employed us earlier in the previous two to three years.

I work on the assembly line where we make one car in about 40 to 43 seconds. In an eight-hour shift, I put 2000-odd bolts in the 400-450 automobiles, applying torques to the car joints while the assembly lines moves.

Earlier, I had worked as “Temporary Worker TW 1” in the same factory four years back, in 2016. Then, after a seven month term, the company removed me and the whole batch of recruits who had joined along with me saying it may recruit us again later as “Temporary Worker 2”, after a gap of a few months. The company refers to us as “Temporary workers”, but we do all the assembly and main work. At one time, it hires for a seven month contract, then it lays us off for a gap, and it may call us again as “Temporary Worker” a second or third time with gaps in the middle.

After I had been removed, they called the next year. “Do you wish to join back as a Temporary Worker?”, they asked. They called 6 or 7 times like this in the last four years. They would usually call around May or at the end of August. But I refused. I made excuses such as I was not feeling well, or occupied. I worked in my father’s small rented shop in Jaipur selling clothes, though our business was failing.

Large manufacturers and factories in my sector, such as this one, have made us redundant. If they would get someone to work for them for five hours or just six months, they prefer that. “Kaam kara liya, nikaal diya (the work is done, now go away)” etc. that is what they prefer.

This factory, the multinational corporation in this industrial township, pays ₹ 21,000 a month (This is nearly twice what other firms pay in the area, though it is less than one-third of permanent workers’ pay), but the tenure is so short. When one applies for jobs in this area after this seven month TW stint, the new employer will usually pay around Rs 8,000-10,000. Then, this drastic drop in wage feels odd, uncomfortable. Also, one wonders, what is the point if one earns Rs 1 lakh in seven months and spends it in the next 4-5 months without a job? It would be better to keep looking for a job where at least one can find employment for a year, rather than remain stuck in this seven month system.

When the company called during the lockdown, I agreed to join as TW-2. I thought I could do this 7-month stint while Covid-19 pandemic is going on and later, I will look for something else. A friend from Punjab advised me to do a distance course in tourism so along with the job, I have enrolled in a year long course remotely.

I joined in July 2020 and my contract is till February 2021.

When I joined in July, soon after the lockdown had been lifted, initially there was little or almost no work for nearly two weeks. We were supposed to undergo a two week training, but the company did not call us to the premises. They called us just 2-3 times to perform some small tasks.

At that time, last July, the company was trying to maintain two three feet distance among workers, then automatically that slowed down the assembly line. There was less work.

But while we idly waited, the company laid down the condition that we cannot leave this town in Haryana and go anywhere else. They made us sign up for two mobile applications – one, Aarogya Setu and the second, an app made by the company – which we had to remain signed into and update every day. They said these tracked our location and would reveal our location to them if we left Haryana and went anywhere while waiting for the work to begin. Once, a supervisor showed me that he could see our exact locations, where we go and so on, even during weekends.

I do not find much difference in the work I did as as TW1 in 2016, and what I am doing now as TW2. The work is the same, stand in one place and apply the bolts as the assembly line moves. There are 15 of us at my work station, of whom six are from Rajasthan, like me. Initially, the company was strict about maintaining social distance. They put plastic sheets in between work-stations, to restrict cough droplets. We were required to wear masks all the time.

Now, in October, they have removed many Covid protections, even though the Covid-19 numbers are peaking. Initially, production was very low. Now, it is picking up. The firm too is not as strict about enforcing social distance etc. as more production is required. Now, they do some sanitizing at the entrance of the factory, and we wear masks. All distancing inside and shields etc have been removed.

So many of my co-workers have fallen ill in the past few weeks. We get no access to diagnosis and treatment through the company. If you go to the doctors in the urban areas near the industrial township, they will immediately give an injection without explaining what it is for and charge ₹ 5,000 for it. One young apprentice worker has died of COVID-19.

I had high fever around September 27, but I still went to work till because I had already taken three days leave in the first quarter, between July to September, for the Raksha Bandhan festival. Now, marking it in the company’s health app would mean getting Rs 16,000 only in pay instead of ₹ 21,000, and losing ₹ 4,100. So, I went into work after taking a pill to reduce temperature to delay taking leave, as otherwise I would have had to automatically take four days off.

The company’s sick leave policy is that if you enter your body temperature as over 98.6 F, or if at the gate check you are detected with a fever, the app marks you as “red”, then you cannot enter the factory premises for four days and will be marked as sick in the app. But this policy makes no sense given the overall leave policy. As per this, in a quarter, which is three months, a worker can take a total three days off. If you take more leaves than that in a quarter, then your monthly “bonus” component of the pay, ₹ 4,100, will be deducted.

The pay and terms of work even in such large companies is now such that I get the feeling that such jobs make no sense. If one could run a small enterprise on one’s own, perhaps that will be a better option. But even the market is in a sluggish phase. When a majority are struggling to survive, then how will they buy anything?

When I went home after working as a “Temporary Worker 1” the first time in 2016, I thought my line was mechanical, I searched for a worker that promised to teach “robotics” as the next direction in automobile firms, I thought to prepare and upgrade for this new technology now. I contacted an institute and they made big promises in the air about teaching robotics through practical workshops, and how about a dozen others had enrolled already. I filled the form and paid for the full course. But what the course advertisement had claimed, it was not in fact like that. They conducted no practicals, and when I started doing it, no one else joined. I realised afterwards there was no one, except me. They charged me ₹ 40,000 for a year for some poorly prepared classes. If I add all expenses on the course, it would come to ₹ 60,000 to ₹70,000.

They issued a certificate at the end that I had studied “robotics”. But I did not show this robotics certificate to the company when I joined this time as TW-2. That would be equivalent to me stating I had studied in a polytechnic and that would become a higher level than the Industrial Training Institute level graduate they had asked me to join in as, based on my previous records as a “Temporary Worker 1.” The hiring contractors would not accept it.

I know six or seven workers here from Rajasthan, my home state. But there is no coordination amongst the workers as such. There is a plant-level workers union in the factory, whose functionaries are permanent workers. If there are differences among contract and permanent workers, or among supervisors and line workers, in the instances I have witnessed, the unions do try to act impartially, and they do not favour the management either. Their purpose is to safeguard the interests of both the company as well as the workers. The union’s own welfare is dependent on that.

Labour laws have been changed in Haryana in the middle of the pandemic. But I do not think it will change anything. I believe issues will continue to rise as before. It is like this – if we put a new sensor in a car, usually individuals outside the factory figure a workaround to the security system before it has even become commonplace. Similarly, governments come and go, and make new rules, this way or other. But the people always devise a way.

Already, we do negotiate despite being Temporary Workers. I could not take leave while I was ill as I did not wish to lose the “bonus pay” in the first quarter. But now, in the second quarter, I have come home to Jaipur to run some errands, and now we no longer worry about their mobile tracking either. I did not want to keep working as many other temporary workers were going on leave for the festivals. The shift was changing from A to B, and the Supervisor asked me to do overtime between the two shifts. When I told the Supervisor that I will take leave, he was not happy about it and asked me to not go, as when from one work-station, when so many take leave at same time it makes work difficult. But I said I am going, and I left anyway. Anyway, in the long run it does not matter how they view me when I will be out of here in February anyway.


*** FOUR

Electronics factory woman worker

I studied tailoring at an Industrial Training Institute in Kendrapada in Odisha and did BA. I moved to Haryana after I got married. My husband, who worked in a garment factory here, was frequently ill. After my son turned two, I started working at a factory which made automobile parts. I worked there for two years on contract. But that firm removed me and 50 other contract workers overnight, when we were a few days’ short of being made permanent workers. I along with 30-40 women workers protested outside the factory for over a month in September 2014. Then, we filed a case against the company in the labour court. Six years back, while the case was on, I started working at a Korean multinational corporation which manufactures electronics.

Though I am a graduate, in this firm I have stated my qualification to be a high school graduate because they prefer to hire those who are just XII pass. They do not prefer graduates. An ITI in tailoring anyway will not count here in machines etc. I felt the job is necessary, what else would I do except follow what they say? I have kept the fact that I have pursued a court case against my previous employer for six years to myself, or else my current employer will throw me out.

The company makes parts out of magnesium alloys, for air conditioners and even parts for airplanes. There are approximately 3,000 workers in the factory, of whom 200 are permanent, the rest are on contract or casual like me. Firm runs in three shifts. There are two thekedaar (contractors) – “BS” and “SB” – and I am hired through one of them. Permanent workers are paid six times more than us, but their work is definitely not more rigorous than ours. Only thing is as it is a Korean firm, at least, it provides canteen, bus, ₹ 800 for uniform and safety shoes to all categories of workers.

On a usual work day, I wake up at 3:30-4 AM. I cook for my son and brother-in-law, who now stays with us. The company bus reaches at 5 AM,or by 5:05 AM. I mark duty at 6 AM. My work is to lift the electronic parts from the assembly line, pack them, and paste stickers on them. I do this continuously in an eight hour shift. I am allowed to sit while doing this. I finish and reach home by 3:30 PM. I and another woman worker, also from Odisha, are the only two women workers on the line. Sunday is off. Though Sunday too, sometimes there is overtime, in a 12 hour-shift.

After the firm opened after the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no significant difference in the work from earlier. From here, I tie a chunni scarf on my face in the bus as a mask. Inside the factory, now, we have to stand at a distance, wear masks. It is now not easy to talk amongst ourselves. Earlier, if six workers sat at one station, now only four are allowed. They have put glass shields or partitions in the middle. Currently, men workers are doing a lot of overtime. We are not able to as in the General or day shift, which we get called in, only one boss is on duty to supervise us. So there isn’t enough extra space to do overtime and it overlaps with the next shift.

During the pandemic, the company remained shut over two months. Our factory shut down on March 20. During the lockdown, they paid us full wage for these ten days the factory remained closed in March and for April. In May, they called some workers back in. They said only nine staff were allowed in one section, they had to leave one space in the middle while sitting. Those of us who were not called waited. They called me back on May 20 and I started work. For May, they deducted 20 days of my pay for the time while I waited to be called back in to work.

In May, it became extremely stressful. My husband developed a very high fever. At that time, the local Employee State Insurance Corporation(ESIC) hospital, the state-run hospital which I am covered as a worker with pay below Rs 10,000, had been converted into a COVID-19 hospital. So, I could not take my husband there. I took him to a private hospital, which admitted him for six days, charging us ₹ 4,500 a day for the bed alone. They diagnosed him as having typhoid, and the total treatment expenses of six days came to ₹ 49,500. It was really difficult. My husband was on intravenous medicines. I was required there constantly to assist him to go to the toilet etc. I used to stay at the hospital till late. My son would be at home alone and when I would return at night at around 10, then he would cry a lot.

Afterwards, once my husband recovered, I told him: “You go back to the village. I will sort out the finances by working here.”We were then staying in a room with rent of ₹ 4,000. The landlords did not agree to let go of even one day’s rent, and was threatening to put a “fine” if we delayed the rent. I sold our fridge, cooler, and shifted out to a room where rent is ₹ 3,000. In the new place, a woman neighbour helped me settle in.

There is a union in our factory, but I think they are looking out for the interest of only the union members, who are permanent workers.

When the firm started calling workers back in, they called the permanent workers back first. They made all of them undergo COVID-19 tests, and put each of them up in a hotel in Manesar because many of them used to commute from Delhi and the Delhi-Haryana border had been shut. The company stated that these workers’ staying in Haryana would reduce the chances of infection as they would no longer be going to Delhi. Those of us on contract have also been tested four times. They made us undergo blood tests as well as nose swabs to test if we had COVID-19 or had already had it.

The company put up some of the permanent men workers up at guest houses continuously from May till even October when the state borders had opened, bearing their expenses. I see their company pays them higher wages, and even money towards their children’s education, insurance etc. In contrast, for casual contract workers such as me, the company does not give even a day’s casual leave or earned leave, or even a gate pass. We do not get even a day’s leave in the year. Taking half day off means losing ₹ 500 and one day’s leave means losing ₹ 1,000.

This is because in our monthly pay of ₹ 10,300, a component of ₹ 2,000 is given only if we stayed present and worked the whole month, it is shown as an “extra”. If we take two days’ leave in a month, we lose ₹ 3000, which is about a third of the monthly pay. So, there is no scope to fall ill, or if anyone in your family falls ill. When my husband was in the hospital, I was away from work almost 12-13 days, and that month, I earned only ₹ 2000 or so. After the lockdown, the contract has stopped even providing a pay-slip, citing the pandemic.

There is no certainty in our line, and there is no saying when they may retrench us, especially as a woman worker. Around 2-3 years back, there were 10-15 women workers in the factory. Then one in-charge, Gurpreet removed many women. He did not like women workers, and did not want to retain women workers. When we indirectly tried to probe him, asking him if he did not like women workers, he said as much, that if there are male workers they can be deputed anywhere including in night shifts. He is still at the plant. He has not been able to find faults with me though.

But there is no certainty. I have worked there seven years, yet I am a casual contract worker, and my other woman colleague, she has worked here since 12 years, but the company has not increased her pay even by one rupee.

Before the lockdown, to diversify my work options, I trained in beauty parlour work. For nearly 3-4 months, I would return from the factory, soak clothes to wash, sweep, mop, wash dishes, feed my son, send him for tuitions at 4pm and then go to training lessons. I paid ₹ 6000 total for the training course. Corona pandemic interrupted my training. But I am planning to resume it. I have learnt the basics, but I need to practise more.

It is not that working in a salon or beauty parlour may provide better livelihood than a MNC factory, but that it is not realistic to expect to remain in continuous employment. Once my child passes class ten in 3-4 years, perhaps I may try to open a shop in the village. All I want is to not be dependent on my husband, as does not have a sense of responsibility, of “How will my child study, or what will my wife live on”, he has no sense of responsibility at all. I spent on his treatment and he has not given back even one rupee for treatment, even when it was his own body! He has now gone to Kanpur and found a factory job there.

When the factory shut down for 5-6 weeks in COVID-19 flux, I did not rest one minute. I worried who knows when and whether they will employ me again or not, I worried for the future, what may come next.

During the lockdown, while I waited to be called back in to work, I started work at a garment unit. A woman in my neighbourhood who worked at a piece-rate in export units told me she knew a masterji, a tailor supervisor at a unit that was open through the lockdown. I too started going to this garment export unit and started working 8-hour shifts on the machine there. Slowly, in a few days, I felt I have figured the machine control, then someone gave me a piece, I too started stitching pieces. I stitched frocks, masks, and I felt it is letting me refresh my training in ITI in tailoring and refine my skills.

I thought I could go and learn, and it would be of use later. In case the Korean company did not call me back, if I went elsewhere to an electronic factory, they would not hire me as I have crossed 25 years in age as most manufacturing firms prefer to hire those below 25. But the social atmosphere of export units is not good at all and I had to discontinue stitching after a month. If anyone criticises, or passes a harassing comment, then it is not even an option to file a complaint in such units.

I used to cover my face with a scarf and I barely spoke with anyone as such there at the export unit. There was a checker there whose job was to inspect and then send a piece further on. One day, out of the blue he told me, “Give me your mobile number, I will clear and approve your pieces.” He was an aged man yet he was so out of line. To ward him off, I told him, “Sir, I have no phone balance, how can I give my mobile number?” He persisted saying “take my number and make a missed call.” At this, I said OK, I will note it down but if I don’t have balance how will I call? It was really stressful as he kept persisting. I realised why it is not easy for women to work even in this garment exports sector.

At that time because of COVID, he had not even seen my face, my eyes were barely visible through the scarf covering my entire face. He said all this to me not even in a room, but on the shop-floor, where there were no walls, there were 10-12 machines in three rows stacked in the hall. I wondered, why is he doing this.

I told the Masterji tailor supervisor about it through whose acquaintance I had first joined this job. He told me, “Garments exports are not like automobiles where you can complain. Here if you say anything, no one will listen, and if you say anything, even if you have stitched a good piece, he will still fail you by any excuse of a fault. And when the in- charge or engineer comes, they can remove any one as they like.”

I had been stitching designer frocks by then. But the next day, I did not go back. The export unit did not pay me anything for the work I had done through the month.

From my first job, where we made automobile parts, there are nearly half of us women in the 30 workers who have persisted with the court case against our employer. The company had then put pressure on us as casuals to take our dues and leave. The case is on since six seven years but till before the pandemic, we met regularly in a park on Sundays to discuss our case’s progress in the courts.

I no longer know when the next court date is as the lawyer has said he will take a date when the courts become functional after the disruption of the pandemic.

We last paid the lawyer ₹ 2,500 each for him to begin the work on testimonies. He takes ₹ 500 for each filing, and his fees will be 10% of our final award.


*** FIVE


I am 19 years old and work in a firm which makes capacitors for fans – a device used to start the fan and make it spin. The factory operates 24 hours. Right now, in about two hours, I have to leave for work in the night shift. My work shifts change weekly. In the night shift, I start work at 8 PM and I must enter the premises by 7:30. If I am late by even two minutes, the gates will shut and they will make me leave the premises.

I have been working in this factory since June, since three months now. I worked in the same factory earlier too in February till the lockdown, but in June after the lockdown, they recruited me as a fresh entrant.

Though we are required to maintain social distance as per the government, in fact, we sit packed together as there are so many workers and so little space. There are 50-60 of us in a room that is 10 feet by 20 feet.

During the lockdown too, the company continued to operate some departments for six to eight hours shifts. About 50-60 workers worked inside discreetly. A few of them told me that since lockdown was on, the employer would pay overtime rates, beyond duty rates, at twice the hourly rate of ₹ 45 an hour. But when they got salary the company had not compensated it as overtime, but as regular duty.

Three months back, on May 3, the factory started running 24 hours. Since the factory reopened, the work is on at a maddening pace compared to earlier. I have been working 12-hour shifts, but the firm refuses to pay overtime as required to at double the hour rate for these extra hours even as it is asking to do longer shifts now.

Work pressure has increased. We are being asked to work at faster speeds. I am in assembly but not on belt but in soldering the electrical parts. The supervisor pressurizes you to increase speed, move your hands faster, you do your bit and throw it to next. “Baitho toh haalat kharaab ho jaati hai, and khade khade pair dukhta hai (If you sit and work, you get miserable sitting for that long, and if you stand, then feet ache)”.

Last month, I fell ill for three days. I thought to myself, I have never worked this crazily before and this is the result of that. I had high fever, my whole body ached, it was intolerable. The company did not offer any support for treatment. I went to a chemist and got some medicines.

I don’t believe in the Coronavirus. I would ask anyone speaking of it “Please, show me what Corona is?” (Laughs). But whatever it was, I was in severe discomfort, my body ached so much. I had to take medicines, even though I usually avoid taking medicines for anything. For three days, I felt really out of it. Before that, I had been working so intensely at the factory, without taking even toilet breaks.

There was so much pending material to process that there was no scope to even ask to go to the toilet. If you try to go to the toilet, the supervisor asks, “Why has he left the station?”. That is how they build pressure on us. It was not like this earlier, before lockdown. But now, re-opening after lockdown, production has really been speeded up.

To be fair to the company, usually when someone joins, the company tells new recruits: “Here, the rule is to work 10 to 12 hours, not less than that. If you wish to not do so, you are free to work somewhere else, or sit at home”. This is the norm. No worker can ask to change this, and ask for exceptions, whether they fall ill or anything.

On their part, workers too believe that and wish to get overtime work duties for the pay. This is because only by slogging overtime can any worker save money, and conserve for the future, beyond affording rent and meals etc. This is why most workers wish to work overtime. Though these last few years, skill institute and vocational school trainees who are very young too land up at the factory. Working along us, they get forced to do longer shifts as well.

I believe that changing laws now, allowing overtime work has no impact, either on us or on corporates. (Haryana government had in April suspended labour laws for two months to allow longer overtime hours). Companies want to have workers available to work 12 hour shifts, and they already get their way, in whichever way.

A year earlier, before this firm, I worked in a different electrical factory which also produces electric fans. There, the pace of work was a bit more leisurely. I lost that job they had asked me to come to work as regular duty without overtime rate, on a Sunday. I said ‘No’. I am allergic to being asked to work on a Sunday.

The foreman had told me, “If you don’t come to work on Sunday, you will face consequences.” I told him I didn’t wish to, “We get just one day off in a week, and I am still young”, I told him (Laughs). Then, they called and sent a message too the night before to come to duty. I did not want to go. On Sunday, I went to play cricket instead and sat at the gumti, a small tobacco shop my family opened a year back. When I went to work on Monday, the supervisor angrily asked me why I hadn’t turned up. They said they had had to call in a new worker in my place and a whole batch of goods had got rejected because of that person’s inexperience. I told them, “Yesterday was a Sunday, and I had to run errands”. On hearing this, they dismissed me. I was wondering whether to call the supervisor again but I didn’t. I thought, if they need to call me, they will. Then, I never went back to ask for a job.

My parents migrated from Pratapgarh in eastern Uttar Pradesh 27 years back and I was born here on the outskirts of Delhi. We now own a house in this jhuggi slum. When the government announced a lockdown in March 2020, those who were living on rent in the slum were the first to leave. For them, it became a question of whether to pay rent during lockdown, or to manage to eat sufficiently. Those who left were made to stay in school buildings 14-15 days when they got to their villages. We have relatives back home in UP, but because of these onerous quarantine requirements, we decided to not leave.

During the lockdown, it was dreadful to be locked in. There were policemen crawling all over the place, and one can’t feel calm if forced to be at home. At the same time, a lot of us in the slum spent time together after long. Otherwise, when we go off to work every day to the company, we don’t get time to meet friends. But during the pandemic, we used to gather and be together.

At night, we would play cricket or with a ball together, even though it made the police angry. All the young people in our slum – boys and girls – would hold adda hangouts in the park at night. We played with balls, taking turns to hit each other, as how we used to play together as children. We would begin at 10 in the night, and play till midnight. If anyone spotted the police approaching, we would run.

The police harassed us a lot. They chased and thrashed so many of us, they even entered our homes to hit us. For instance, once they arrived at 7 am, and heartlessly started beating residents in our slum.

Through the lockdown, I raced my brain on how to make an income. Many things got costlier, such as beedi, chewing tobacco, cigarettes. Chewing tobacco and beedi worth ₹ 5 were selling at ₹ 20. So I told myself “OK, let’s do this.” I took supplies from an acquaintance, kept these in my pocket and sold them. All of it sold out. People started coming to me in droves, the demand was so high, I ran out of goods.

If I save some money, I would expand the beedi cigarette business, buy in bulk and supply it everywhere. ‘Dilbagh’ tobacco costs ₹ 26,000 per sack, ‘Bhanu’ beedi is also very costly, Vimal gutka is ₹ 23,000 per sack in bulk.

I am hoping that if I invest Rs 1 lakh business will run smoothly…lekin haath mein jab nahi likha hota hai na (but what if it is not in my destiny) (Laughs) I am not scared that I am investing it anywhere…I know if I buy for ₹ 26000 , ₹ 30,000 to ₹32,000 I will still make profits in selling to shops. I will get the wholesaler’s margin profits.

See for any company, the brand matters. Once the brand is established, all works out. But I hear if you invest ₹ 100 in biscuits, then you barely get margins of ₹ 5-10 on it. What is the point of such a business? There is a huge demand for and significant margins for chewing tobacco etc.

Chewing tobacco, beedi etc are such items that the buyer comes looking, searching for the supplier – that “Brother, where are you!” Even during lockdown, people were willing to buy items like these worth ₹ 5 worth at ₹ 20, searching everywhere to procure the goods.

My friend sold ₹ 150 worth of beedis for ₹ 500 in lockdown. “Nasha ek aisi cheez hai na, aadmi roti nahi khayega but beedi peeyega (this is what addiction is – a man may forgo a meal but cannot forgo a substance he craves)”. Why else would so many get drunk so often?


*** SIX


I am 19 years old. I grew up in a village near Mirzapur in Allahabad (Prayagraj) in Uttar Pradesh and in 2019, I trained for three months in a government-run skill training programme in a skill center near my village. I am now in my second job, and I live with four other girls who are from near my village and who were with me in the skill training programme. We are all from the same batch except one of the girls’ sister, who is older than us. Four of us work at the same factory, making wire harnesses for automobiles in Haryana since two months. I am also enrolled in BA through a correspondence course, and have exams in March 2021.

We came back to get a job after the pandemic-induced lockdown. Earlier, immediately after our training, we had first come to the National Capital Region on January 25, 2020. We then stayed for 15 days in a working girls’ hostel in Gautam Buddha Nagar district in UP till we got jobs in the Mamura area in NOIDA industrial area. It is 700 km from our village.

The center’s staff used to publicize the skill programme going from village to village. That is how I found out about it. At the skill training center, I had trained in Retail. The teachers had taught our batch how to work in a mall, how to present ourselves, how to attend to customers in retail, for example, they would teach us that if a customer did not like any items, how would we attend to them or speak so that they like the item. I had found out about the center from a friend.

The center taught us how to sit for 8 hours. You know how they teach five year old infants to sit in a nursery? The same way, they taught us how to sit through 8-hour of duty, the equivalent of 8-hour classes, to motivate us. This is also how coaches motivate to become a judge, or a district collector. To become something in life, you have to be committed, you have to have a heart full of aspirations – that is what the teachers at the center taught us. They also taught some basic computers.

The training was very enjoyable, it was great fun. We lived together in a hostel. There were boys as well as girls in our center. But after the training finished, my parents did not at first allow us go to NOIDA. I forced them zabariyaa to let me travel. They said “You will not go”, “Get married” etc. I insisted I will go. But who knew I would land up in a job like this?

Based on what they were telling us, training us in, I had thought I would get a job in a mall or in an office working on a computer. I have not spoken to or ever met anyone who did the training before our batch, so I did not know what they had got jobs in.

I got a call from the staff at the center that “You are about to get job appointments”, so I came where they sent us. Today on October 30, a few more trainees from that hostel are leaving for NCR, and on November 7 too a group will arrive by train. Like us before them, they too do not know yet where they have been placed.

In January 2020, when I first left the village, I did not know what job I had got. I knew only the location I would be taken to. I was desperately waiting for when my ticket would be booked “We will go to Delhi! We will go to Delhi!”– that is all, I thought all the time. Where would we go after we reached Delhi – I did not know.

From Allahabad, the train reached Anand Vihar, then the staff person from the center told us that some would be taken to Haryana, others to NOIDA in Uttar Pradesh. One “Sir” from the center came with us till the job site then left. Once the center has assigned you on a job once, the second time, you are free to look for a job yourself.

But for this, the center has not yet given us proof of us completing the training. After we finish six months of work in a job and submit payslips for those months, then they will give our skill certificates.

I started work in an auto parts factory on the assembly line in February 2020. I had worked only for a month when the factory was shut down due to the Coronavirus. On March 27, three days after the lockdown, those living near our room were leaving for Uttar Pradesh, I too left with them to go back to my village.

I walked and took rides in trucks for four days. The whole world was terrified, “Corona Corona” everyone would say, but me and my friends roamed the world without a mask! We had some cash, but we had a hard time finding anything to eat, or cooked meals, as everything was closed. Then, the second day, when we could no longer tolerate hunger, we bought and ate some bread. There were five six of us, boys and girls in a group. One of them accompanied me to my village. I reached home on April 1.

When I reached, the police landed at my home, and asked me to come with them to the station. They checked my temperature the same way the company does daily checks with a machine and then let me go.

I felt bored at home after some time. A batch from our village was leaving for Haryana around August 15, and I came here with them in the train with the help of our center. No girls from our village have ever come here before, as far as I know. We came back as we were stubborn and we insisted that we will go. Our parents were even more anxious this time, that there is a virus going around. But we asked them if we have studied, please let us go. Five of us now share a room here in Manesar in Haryana.

Of my roommates, I and three others are now hired through the same contractor on the assembly line. There are 35 workers on our station and floor. We have to stand continuously for eight hours and make a wire harness. It is hard work. We have now worked here for two and a half months. But I do not understand our salary structure. The company states it pays us Rs 9,500, but after deducting canteen fees, Provident Fund dues, we get only Rs 8,000 in hand. When I work so hard for hours and earn only this much, it makes me resent it. I can’t earn much more even by doing “overtime” as the firm pays only ₹ 40 an hour for overtime work after eight hours, instead of the (legally required) double hourly rate of ₹ 90. What is the point then? I do not wish to work here for more than six months I think.

In contrast, I have heard that Myntra, Flipkart pay ₹ 11,000, even ₹ 12,000. That must be a great firm. Though I have also heard such firms which do online retail, where you are packing clothes and so on, they deploy stricter surveillance measures to ensure you are not carrying items out of the factory.

The only hitch in applying there is that they require an Android phone, which I don’t possess. That has now become essential after the Coronavirus pandemic. The company makes you sign up for an application, on which you must state “I am healthy”, that is all. I will buy an Android phone with my next pay.

But to tell you the truth, the day I and my batch-mates did not go in to work, that day there were much fewer harnesses produced. That is how good we are at our work. We can make the entire factory floor tremble when we decide to!

We have become so able that the firm depends on us. Even if we are a few minutes late, the supervisor ignores the delay if it is our group. We are together. “Company hum logon se, hum Company se nahi hain, Company logon se hoti hai. Log chaahe toh Company chalaaye, chaahe toh na chalayein” The company is because of us, we are not because of the company. If humans will, they will run the firm, if they don’t, they will not)”.




I am 19 years old, and grew up in a village in Agra. Since the past two years, I have worked in a firm making automotive parts such as iron castings, forgings, die castings in Manesar in Haryana.

I am hired through a labour contractor and work in the finishing department. The factory has 1,100 workers. The contractor has not specified anything about the job’s terms or tenure, 500 of us were hired through his firm. When a company decides to fire a worker, then it may, that’s all. Then, the contractor cannot do anything. The firm will tell a worker “Go talk to your contractor”, and the contractor will tell workers, “What can I do when the company has fired you?”

On March 22 (the day of the first “Jantaa Curfew” announced by the Prime Minister, a mock drill before the national lockdown), I left for my village. The next evening the staff messaged to say the company will stay closed till March 31. Then the closure date was extended till April 14, then till end of May. I returned after June when the company called us back.

During COVID-19-induced lockdown, when the company shut down for three months, they paid one month’s pay, not for the full period. After COVID, when they re-opened in July, they started checking our body temperature at the gate. Other than that, the working conditions have remained the same. After lockdown, the company called us back in June, but it made us wait 10-15 days without offering any work. Then later, it did not pay us at all for these 15 days.

Usually, in regular work tenure, I have no paid leave. Some workers take 15 days leave, and for that too the company deducts wages. This year, those who got some respite were those who had a salary and went back to company as usual. Those who lost their jobs, or got quarantined, they had a hard time.

Back at home, during the lockdown, I worked in the fields. Wahan gaon mein mann nahi lag raha tha (I wasn’t feeling very settled at home either). Then when the company called, I thought, OK I will return.

The factory is running 24 hours. I work in 12 hour shifts in a different shift every week. This week I am on shift starting at 5:30 PM which will go on till 6 AM. The next week I will work in the 6 AM shift and after that, the third shift – night shift – which starts at 10:30 PM and goes on till late morning.

Earlier, when we first returned to work in July, our shifts were eight hours, now, in October, the shifts have got longer to 12 hours and production has increased a lot now. I don’t know if it is because people are buying more cars or are the companies stocking it, or what is the reason. “Aaj kal toh company mein behraaye ke kaam ho raha hai.” (Work is at a maddening, intense pace these days.)

They are extracting a lot of work, more than before. Earlier it was not this hectic, it has become excessive now. Maybe it is so because the company had to stay shut for three months? I have not ever seen production at this pace ever in the last 2-2.5 years I have worked, it is that intense.

I am in the “finishing department”, my work is to approve various new parts coming in from the machine and check them before they are packed. I have to pick up the part that is coming on the line, examine if I have to do any finishing for it, then if I spot any problem, then I have to get it fixed. I review many parts, for different vehicles, each part has a different number.

Earlier in 8 hours, if I cleared 1,400-1,500 parts in an hour, now it is 4,500-6,000. It is three times more than before. While the work intensity has increased three to four times than earlier, at my station, in my department from 16-17 workers earlier, now they have increased the strength to 22, which is not even double. The company has recruited four new women workers with increased production. There is overall an increase in the number of women workers now.

I cannot say how this increased pace and fewer workers impacts quality. I don’t think the company cares either. The company cares about production, that is all. Anything may happen to a worker, it is of no relevance to the company.

Like everyone else, I too get tired inside the plant. I am required to stand all the time, through the 12 hour shift. Sometimes, I try to walk around, go fetch some part or examine a part.

If someone falls ill, the company wants you to get treated at your own costs. The firm deducts from our wage for our subscription to the Employee State Insurance Corporation(ESIC), but they have not provided us ESIC cards yet (which entitle workers earning below Rs 10,000 to free treatment).

If a worker falls ill or the machine shows they have elevated body temperature or if they have a cold or cough, the company sends the worker home for a week and deducts pay. They say “Corona check kara ke aao”, (Go get yourself tested for COVID-19 infection.)

It is not easy to access a government hospital quickly, so one has to go to a private clinic or laboratory for COVID-19 test, which costs between Rs 1,800-2,000 (in October 2020). This means you lose out on that day’s daily pay, and have to shell out Rs 2,000. If the result says negative, you still lose half day’s pay next day and if you test positive, then the company may remove you for 15 days and may not even take you back at all in employment. For example, this month, a worker in my work station who is also from my district had a cough, they sent him back home and to come back later in a few days. But when he returned, they did not take him back. They asked him for a report showing he was now normal and not ill, and he even produced this, yet they did not take him back. The company doesn’t want to take him now, as Diwali is around the corner, they will have to pay him a bonus etc. So they told him there is no space or vacancy now anymore. Uska naukri khatam kar diye in 4 -5 days. He was away only 4-5 days and they did this. Now, he has gone back home and is planting potatoes (Laughs). If someone falls ill, the staff reprimand the worker and throw the worker out. Employers are very sly.

There are no more permanent jobs anymore. But why the situation is worse than earlier is that if earlier you worked 6-12 months you could get a wage hike. Now, even even if you work two years, you will not get a wage increase. If wages are increasing, only then one can take interest in this work. But when wages stagnate at only Rs 9,000, and don’t give bonus, then no one wants to stay on after a year.

I live in Aliyar village, next to the Industrial Model Township in Manesar, and it is not possible to save anything in ₹ 9,000 pay. I share a room with two other workers and together we pay ₹ 5,100 a month in just rent, then ₹ 500-700 a month for food. Otherwise, we cook potato, or roti, sometimes rice in the room. After I return from my shift tonight, I will make rotis in the morning, eat, then go to sleep, then I get one evening meal in the company canteen.

I do not know about labour law changes. I heard something is changing. Do the changes mean they increase pay to ₹ 14,000 to ₹15,000 for eights hours of work?

A year back, one of the largest automobile companies our company supplies parts to, removed hundreds of workers who had worked in the same firm for several years on contract. What was the workers’ fault that they were removed? The state police helped the company in removing them. If the police help the corporation, then what action will a worker take? They sat in and protested for three months, then, they left.

There is no certainty of this job. If I lose the job, I will go and farm our family’s 0.2 hectare plot in the village. Maybe I may run a village auto-rickshaw.

After coming to IMT Manesar, I realised education has no value here. Vocational training such as from an Industrial Training Institute (ITI) too has no value. If you are angootha chaap illiterate, you may earn ₹ 9,000 in a job in the factory, and if you are an ITI graduate, you may also earn ₹ 9,000 to ₹ 9,500.

Even farmers are in torment. By the time the crop gets ready, the prices crash. Then, a person leaves their village for the city, thinking “I will go earn something”. And when you reach here, you know you may just end up going back.

God only knows what is going to happen. But even to visit the Gods, for darshan too, one needs money.



A Glimpse of Social Churnings: Attempts at Conversational Interactions During Covid Lockdowns. Faridabad Majdoor Samachar, September 29, 2020 https://www.scribd.com/document/478078431/FMS-KK-A-Glimpse-of-Social-Churnings

‘The Great Pause’: Amanda Janoo, Gemma Bone Dodds, April 3, 2020 https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/oureconomy/great-pause/

‘Fever: Class struggle under pandemic’, May 22, 2020 https://libcom.org/blog/fever-class-struggle-under-pandemic-22052020

‘The Museum of Care: Imagining the world after the pandemic’ Nika Dubrovsky, David R Graeber, April 2020. https://www.academia.edu/42821625/The_Museum_of_Care_Imagining_the_world_after_the_pandemic