Kundli's Factory Workers Are Caught Between Low Wages And Life-Threatening Conditions

As Kundli's industrial area bustles with workers, the grim reality of low wages, wage delays, and life-threatening working conditions overshadows their daily grind.

Tribhuvan Tiwari
Photo: Tribhuvan Tiwari

At 6 pm in the Kundli Industrial Area of ​​Sonipat, the chaos and movement of people suddenly increases. Where there was silence a while ago, now a crowd of thousands of people start moving towards their homes with tiffin bags in their hands.

23-year-old Sama comes out of this crowd and goes to her house and starts cooking. Hema works in a utensil factory and is one of those thousands of people who have come here in search of work, away from their homes.

She lives in a rented house with her husband and one-and-a-half-year-old child. Sama's husband also works in another factory there. The building in which Sama lives has 34 rooms of about 9 feet X 10 feet whose rent varies between Rs 3000 to Rs 4000.

She says, “I am from Bihar but have been living here for the last five years, and my Aadhar and Voter ID card are from here. In the factory where I work, the other workers and I get very low salaries, most of the workers are paid between 5000 to 9000 which is less than the minimum wage set by the government. My salary is 8000.”

The minimum wage set by the Haryana government is currently Rs 410 for unskilled workers, but Sama and many other workers like her have to work for much lower wages than this.

Sama further says that she never gets her salary in a month, every 40th or 45th day she is given the salary for the previous 30 days, and that too after a lot of pleading.

Like Sama’s case, Devi (name changed) works in a shoe manufacturing factory. She says that in her factory, workers are even prevented from urinating so that the company's production is not affected. Her monthly salary is Rs. 8,000.

Kundli is an industrial area with more than 1,000 factories. There are factories from utensils to steel wire, toys, shoes, and other items. Workers from many other districts of the country and Haryana work in these factories, but most of the workers are facing problems related to wages. They say that the government has notified the minimum wage, but it has not created any mechanism to implement it.

Manjeet is from Hisar and lives in Kundli and works as a daily wage labourer; in this connection, he has worked in many factories. He says that in these factories, the safety of the workers is also not taken care of.

As a result, on the night of May 16, three workers died and more than 25 workers, including children, were injured in a fire in a company named Shri Ganesh Enterprises. Manjeet said that the cause of this fire was the explosion of the factory's boiler, due to which some nearby houses were also damaged.

In 2022, Amendments were made to the Indian Boiler Regulations 2022 in which companies were given a free hand to inspect the boilers themselves, due to which factories have started acting arbitrarily. As a result, boiler-related fires have occurred in many factories in this industrial area in the last few years.

Manjeet says that neither the central nor the state government has done anything for the workers of this area, most of the workers are deprived of the benefits of any government scheme. Now their lives are also in danger because of working in these factories.

Many concerns related to workers are also becoming more apparent as the Lok Sabha elections draw closer to a conclusion. The government at large has not been able to solve many of these challenges. The questions of these workers are strongly raising fingers on the promises made by the government to the workers.