(New Series No. 175, January 2003)
19 year old worker: I've been working since 1999. At this time, I am a casual worker in Lakhani shoes factory. I stay in a shanty on rent at 250 rupees. There is no electricity. And fearing raids of officials, the neighbors don't provide us with a connection, so we have to make due with a lamp. My duty is in general shift. I get up at 5:30 a.m. I have to go out to defecate in a very dirty place. Then I get in line for water. My friend is also a casual worker and now after the break sells vegetables on the street. Just after getting up, he runs to the vegetable market. After collecting water, I prepare food for both of us. To prepare roti and vegetables for two on the stove takes an hour. After preparing the food, I take a bath and then I eat.
I leave for duty at 8 a.m. on the bicycle. Attendance is marked first at the factory gate and then in the department. Work begins at 8:30 a.m. There is no break for tea but 9:30 tea comes from the canteen and one has to buy it with one's money and drink it while continuing to work. It is very laborious work. You have to be at it all the time- oil it, count it, then pack in boxes, load them on the vehicle. The supervisor continuously scolds and abuses us. In Lakhani shoes, there is not even time to drink water or go to the bathroom. One has to hide and go.
There is some relief during lunchtime. We eat together and talk. We want to leave this job but where can we go? Ideas keep churning in each one's mind. On the days I don't have time to make lunch, I eat in the canteen and they give an half plate for 4 rupees, but it does not fill my stomach. I have to spend 8 rupees. I am not able to send money home, nor am I able to live properly.
After lunch, we have to work continuously for 5 and half hours, and there is no tea coming around. It seems as though we have been tied up. There is no overtime work for me. On the release at 5 p.m., I come straight to my room and make tea. After tea, I sit here and there for some time. I collect water at 6:30 p.m. and clean the utensils. I prepare food at 7 p.m. My friend returns at 9 p.m. and then we make dinner. Sometimes, I watch t.v. We wash dishes and sleep by 10:30 p.m.