In April, at least 15 workers of Unit 8 factory of Shahi Exports Pvt Ltd were reportedly left grievously injured after being allegedly beaten up by the management. The Shahi Exports Pvt Ltd is a private organisation owned by the Ahuja family and Mr Anand Ahuja, who is married to actress Sonam Kapoor, is among the top executives.
This issue was brought to notice after Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), a United States-based labour rights monitoring organisation, released a detailed report on the abuse faced by the workers after probing the whole incident.
Shahi Exports Pvt Ltd., is one of India’s leading garment manufacturer. The company supplied to international brands like H&M, Decathlon, GAP, Zara, Calvin Klein, Walmart and many more. Reportedly, the company makes over Rs 5,500 crore in annual revenue and has 50 other production facilities in India. The facility in Bangalore has about 3,000 garment workers who are reportedly paid just Rs 42 per hour. The WRC report also alleges that the company lobbied the state government of Karnataka, where Shahi Unit 8 and many of the company’s other factories are located, earlier this year, to cancel a scheduled increase in minimum wage of garment factory workers in the state.
According to the report, the representatives of the management representatives, on April 4, physically assaulted, hurled gender, caste and religion based abuses and even issued death threats. The workers were threatened with mass termination.
It is reported that the police was present at the factory premise when the assault took place. Right now, it is reported that the police have launched an investigation into this matter.
WRC has also said that the company tried to suppress the media coverage. An article carried by Deccan Herald on April 5 was pulled down from their website on April 7 and another article published in its place said that Shahi’s management has claimed that an intra-employee conflict caused the violence. The WRC report said, “From interviews with Deccan Herald staff, the WRC learned that this substitution was made by the newspaper as a result of pressure from Shahi – applied both directly and through requests from members of the newspaper’s board.”
Shahi Export Pvt Ltd’s Response
Bangalore-based Garment Labourers’ Union’s President, Rukmini told The Logical Indian, “The matter has come to our notice. The workers of the said factory had initially put across three demands- proper bus facilities for transportation, drinking water and clean toilets and the third was for raise in salary.”
Rukmini said that 20-25 active members of the worker union were specifically targeted. “15 of them suffered major injuries. The management closed the doors and thrashed these workers. This took place in front of police. 12 people were suspended on that day. However, present status on the suspension is not known.”
The WRC, in its report, said that although the company has agreed to take back the workers who were injured, they have not done anything to ensure the safety. The company has said that the 12 of the 15 workers will also be brought back and will be offered back-pay.
Reportedly, those accused of verbally abusing and assaulting the workers have not faced any disciplinary action and only a few have been transferred to other units, while most of them continue to work in the same Unit 8 factory.
Shahi has also refused to recognise the factory’s workers’ union, WRC report says.
The Logical Indian has contacted Shahi Exports Pvt Ltd. and its response is awaited.
Also Read: Bangalore Garment Factory Labourers: Understanding Their Plights And Demands