Young girls in Tirupur allegedly manipulate age in medical certificate to get employed in spinning mills

Over 750 spinning mills in the three districts, nearly 60 to 70 percent of the total workforce are adolescent girls
Presently, the mill owners do not rely on agents or middlemen for recruiting the girls
Presently, the mill owners do not rely on agents or middlemen for recruiting the girls

Intended to get hired at spinning mills, the young girls who dropped out from schools allegedly manipulates their age in medical certificates. As spinning mills demand only medical certificate than birth or school records, this practice was in place in the units at Tirupur, Coimbatore and Erode districts.

Over 750 spinning mills in the three districts, nearly 60 to 70 percent of the total workforce are adolescent girls who were recruited through Sumangali, a self-proclaimed scheme offered by the units which promise a lump sum produce that would enable the young girls to get married.

As the units do not claim that employees are recruited directly through Sumangali scheme, the girls, however, are guaranteed to be offered huge amount after completing their term in the mills. Agents play a role in bringing in girls to the spinning mills for work. One big difficulty is the girl's must stay away from their houses and meeting their parents or travelling back to their native stations during holidays is a challenging task. Lured by the words of the agents, the girls then allegedly manipulate their age in the medical certificate furnished by the doctors.

A highly placed industry source told Express, "The mills in the western region of Tamil Nadu employ a maximum number of adolescent girls, who did even complete their high school grade. These girls face untold miseries after their come into the job

Taking rest during their menstrual cycles becomes risky where are made to work more than eight hours daily."M Shanthi* (23), from Dindigul, was working in a spinning mill in Tirupur region a few years ago. She toiled hard along with her counterparts beginning from 10 am to 10 pm with a lunch break in between. She lamented, "We were made to take care of additional works in case of any absentees. Not a single day is passed without the ill-treatment or verbal abuses showered by the higher officials or the supervisor. The room which we are staying looks jampacked as more than 10 girls will be asked to accommodate a single room. I quit my job within a year due to difficulties, that made me ineligible to receive the total amount as promised by the unit."

Presently, the mill owners do not rely on agents or middlemen for recruiting the girls as they have jumped into advertising campaigns projecting the success stories of the former employees. Similarly, the existing employees are being forced to bring in dropout girls from their villages so that the former shall get some benefits like new clothes or watching their favourite hero's movie. Nevertheless, the harassment and abuses which the girls are going through at work are not less. Some get public attention, while some won't. The Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) mandated by the government to be set up at all the workstations is still lying defunct in a number of units; while many did not form a committee in this regard, according to the sources. Speaking to Express, C Nambi, executive director of Centre for Social Education and Development (CSED), an NGO explained that the girls who are recruited by the units as apprentices, leaves the firm with the same designation. He said, "Majority of the spinning mills do not have workers union as old timers are given voluntary retirement from work. Since nobody to argue over the issues, the mill owners frame their own rules, that put the lives of the girls into hardship." Nambi further said the fitness certificate given by the doctors must be checked along with school records, so the real age of the girl could be revealed.

"The benefit for the mills to employ adolescent girls is the pay could be kept on a minimal scale, which is less than the wage set by our government. Sadly, there will be forced night shifts. Some units go to an extent where they offer tablets to the girls for delaying their menstrual cycle."It is also said the girls get affected with respiratory disorders, eye irritation and skin diseases while at work. A spokesperson of one of the association said, -"We cannot say that there are no adolescent girls being employed in spinning mills, as it becomes a false claim. The government officials should make surprise inspection in the mills to check if everything is all right. The girls upon knowing this issue continue to work in mills as they have shouldered the burden to support the family.

When contacted, M Seenivasagam, Joint Director-I of Factories Wing under Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health (DISH)-Tirupur ruled out saying the medical certificates of the girls could not be manipulated as it is given by doctors deputed by them. He also said the ICC at the spinning mills in Tirupur region is functioning without any hassle. There are around 300 spinning mills across Tirupur and nearly 30 adolescent girls work at each mill, he said. s.

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