Is FMS Delhi good

"If you think too much, you become a terrorist"

At first glance, he appears to be the image of someone who is over-exploited Third world working class to underline: already worn out in early years by 16-hour shifts and tuberculosis, no prospects for the future - a victim. What does not appear in Manu's account are his own activities, his non-self-sacrificing nature. For an over-exploited person, he is usually in a surprisingly good mood, has too much to laugh about and represents the older comrade of the Faridabad Majdoor Samaachaar (FMS) too many intelligent questions. He got to know the comrades while distributing their newspaper on the way to work, on the open six-track level crossing at the Okhla freight station. He found the newspaper reports interesting and took three hours after work to tell his own story in a neighboring tea shop. Since then he has been taking two days off a month - his only day off - to help distribute the newspaper. Sometimes he brings colleagues with him or arranges contacts with other workers who want to see their experiences printed in the newspaper. He gets along well with the other young workers from Michael Aram Exportwho also help distribute the newspaper and donate small sums. Michael Aram is an American entrepreneur who welds and grinds metal art objects in large series in Delhi. The Michael Aram workers are another hopeful example that even 12-hour shifts do not have to lead to passivity. After successfully fighting their dismissal, 20 of the 30 colleagues continue to meet regularly on Sundays as a group in a public park and talk to friends of the FMS about their work situation. These meetings often have a stage-ready character, some of the metal grinders give lengthy prosaic speeches, every skilful phrase, punch line or satirical representation of a superior is given an appreciative one by the colleagues ’Shabash!‘ commented. These meetings are also attended by the only woman in the workforce, the widow of a worker who was killed in a traffic accident while fighting for reinstatement. The first requirement besides reinstatement was a job for the deceased's wife. For the younger workers, in addition to the problems in the factory, there is also the question of living together. Many of them are not yet married in their early to mid-twenties, on the one hand because their situation as a migrant far from home complicates a marriage, and on the other hand because an arranged marriage is no more than given by fate is seen. During the last distribution at the level crossing, we meet Manu angry. His pal Santosh, truck driver and nephew one FMS- Comrade, has returned to the village to get married in her late twenties. Manu is angry about the decision and angry about the increasing harassment in his factory. The headline of the short report on the situation in his company quotes himself: "If you think too much, you become a terrorist".

A 19 year old textile worker

I get up at half past six in the morning. We three pay around 910 rupees a month for the six square meter room. The house has two floors, a total of 15 rooms, the landlord lives elsewhere. There is a latrine on each floor. At the moment three or four rooms are empty, so the line in front of the latrine is not too long. There is no bathroom, the men wash outside, the women in the rooms. The house I lived in before was much more crowded and the rent was also higher at 920 rupees. At seven o'clock one of us washes the aluminum pots, the other makes rotis out of wheat flour, the third prepares the vegetables. At 8:30 a.m. after we have eaten the rotis, we make our way to work. I am currently working at the Anand Internationals factory in Okhla. From the start of work at 9 a.m., we have to struggle to meet the target. Lately we've been making ties. First the company gave us twelve minutes per tie, then eleven minutes, ten, nine, eight, and now seven minutes. Because the debit was too high, I left the other Anand Internationals factory. There they gave us 20 minutes per shirt on the first day, 19 minutes on the second and so it went on up to ten minutes. You have to accelerate the pace of work so much that the body cannot keep up, and the work consumes the body.

My father is an artisan. He makes dishes out of metal. Rich people of the handicraft invited him to Kanpur, Nagpur or Nepal. Nowadays there are dishes made of steel or aluminum, so plates or water containers made of brass or copper are no longer in demand.

In the village I left school after the seventh grade and learned to sew. When I was fifteen, in 2002, I moved to Delhi with an uncle. He got me a job there in the Raj Mataar factory in Okhla. Instead of the small sewing machines like in the village, there were large ’Zukki‘ machines (Japanese company) and’ Fashion Production. During the first four months, the so-called ’study and work’ trial period, I worked every day from nine in the morning until one at night. The company was clearly putting pressure on it: 'Join in or go'. My uncle also said I should stay tuned. I was still growing and after four months of hard work I got sick. In Delhi a doctor, Doctor Usha Maheshvari, took a fee of 200 rupees and was diagnosed with tuberculosis. I went back to the village. There Doctor Pande took 20 rupees and found a bad blood count. I stayed in the village for four months, bought medicine from Doctor Pande's store, who was also 20 percent overpriced, and received treatment. Back in Delhi I started at PeeEmparo Exports. I worked there for three years, and the company did not provide health or unemployment insurance. I would return to Ilahabad every eight to nine months to continue treatment until I befriended someone in Okhla who could treat me there.

Then at the Anand Internationals factory we worked from nine in the morning until twelve at night. Because of unfulfilled pieces, I had a minus of 30 hours in the accounting for the last 15 working days. The company cut nearly 500 rupees from my wages. In the factory, people are very fanatical about fulfilling the target. When you have to pee there are minuses, when you go to drink water there are minuses. You only piss or drink when it is no longer bearable. Around 500 men and women work in the factory, but there is only one latrine each on the ground floor. There is always a queue.

We only leave the machines during the lunch break at a quarter past one. The sign in the canteen says that a meal costs eight rupees and tea one and a half rupees, but in fact you pay twelve and two rupees. If you ask, they say the sign is just hanging there for display. The lunch break is 45 minutes, and so that the people can leave the factory quickly, they have set up two security guards to monitor them. At midnight, after work, long queues form because there is only one security guard on duty. Then it takes more than ten minutes to leave the factory. During the lunch break I go back to the room, there is the food that we have prepared in the morning. After dinner, I leave the dishes as they are in order to have at least some time to rest.
At two o'clock we are back in the factory, behind the machines. At four o'clock there is a 15-minute tea break. Then back behind the machine until six in the evening. Then another tea break and some food from the street stall.
There are 300 sewing machines in the factory, all on the ground floor, where it is very hot. Even in winter you sweat. You can't breathe. Of the 300 workers, maybe ten are healthy, all others have health problems. Neither of us has a health insurance card. We all pay for treatment privately, and if you get sick the company fires you. The offices are on the first floor of the Anand Internationals factory, with the finishing department on the two floors above: cutting threads, removing stains, ironing, packing. On the fourth floor there are people who earn between 15,000 and 20,000 rupees, they don't talk to us. On the fifth floor, next to the canteen, chemicals are prepared for washing the fabrics.

Because they currently let us work until midnight, we get a half-hour break at eight thirty in the evening. We eat at the street stall. The company gives us 20 rupees for the food. Then from nine to twelve behind the machine.
When I get home from work, I leave the dishes as they have been since lunch. I'm going to sleep around one o'clock.

There is no day off, we also work on Sundays. The delegations of the importers from GAP and Lenson announce their visits, then we only work until six o'clock in the evening.

In the factory, the conversations are not what they should be, people are not behaving as they should - insults, insults, lies, exaggerations, minor scams. If a piece has been badly processed, you will get a shit from the foreman or foreman. At home you will get a shit from the landlord because of the water and electricity consumption.

When work ends at nine in the evening, one of us goes to the market to buy vegetables. In Okhla the market is always overcrowded, even at ten o'clock at night. People don't pack up their stalls until midnight. We buy vegetables, rice, lentils, oil, gas and soap together and each paisa (smallest unit of the rupee) is recorded in the book. We have learned in every way to keep a separate record of what each of us spends. I currently live with close relatives. Each of us spends 1100 rupees on food and rent, plus 10 rupees a day for food in the factory. If you work from nine in the morning to midnight, you get 5000 rupees a month, for the twelve-hour shift you get 4000 rupees. I send money home to the village because you never know whether you will get sick again and how much it will cost you. In the last four years in Delhi I have never felt physically well - the illness cost me Rs 30,000 to 32,000. What kind of hope is there? You just have to keep going.



from: Wildcat 82, autumn 2008