It been many months since Trikeshwar Verma, a helper met with an accident while working in a factory belonging to Ambuja Cements, a major cement manufacturer in the country. He survived to tell the tale but lost his right foot from below the knee. Even as his meagre savings disappeared into medical bills and therapy, he worked himself out of his situation with uncommon grit. He got himself a Jaipur foot and was gradually able to resume a regular life. He retained a job at Ambuja Cement. He was shifted from ‘helper’ to a more sedentary position.
His wages continue to remain poor. His hours remain inordinately wrong. His injury has remained yet another statistic the companies brushes under the carpet. His compensation from them is yet to arrive. And with all this exploitation, he remains unsure about how long he will be able to retain his job. He fears that his supervisor might just turn up one day and fire him from the company. He has a widowed mother, a wife and an infant child to feed at home. After his long fight to return to normalcy after the accident, he doesn’t have it in him for another long fight. But his life and destiny is not his hands. He is a just yet another ‘contract worker.’
As major companies try to squeeze every profit rupee, the rights of the workforce toiling in the factories are curtailed and denied. With severe competition for available jobs, companies have stopped hiring full time employees preferring to get workers on dubious exploitative ‘contracts’. Under the contracts, workers are paid less, have to put in more hours, receive no insurance or benefits from the company. The companies are not held accountable for the basic welfare of its workers.
The plant at which Trikeshwar works is particularly infamous for its mistreatment of the contract workforce. Even the State High Court of Chhattisgarh ruled in favor of contract workers at the plant, instructing the company to regularise CAL employees and replace the “sham” contracts currently in place. But the companies have continued to ignore the ruling and continue persist in their conscienceless ways.
Contract workers like Trikeshwar worker harder than their full time counterparts and it is only fair that they receive equal rights. Unsavory corporate practices practiced by major companies like Ambuja cheapens human life and labor. It can only result in a landscape of despair, alienation and violence.
The careers page on the Ambuja website quotes Henry Ford – ‘Take away all my machines/Burn away all my factories/But give me back my people/And I will build my factories again”. With a pinch a irony, it sounds like the worker will be put through pure hell.