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Labour dispute at Madhya Pradesh's former Century units turns murky: Worker commits suicide, children drop out

By Our Representative
There appears to be no end in sight in the dispute between about 1,700 employees, who include 1,200 workers, of an Indore-based textile mills, sold by Century to Kolkata’s Wearit last year, with the workers insisting that the Madhya Pradesh labour commissioner’s order for payment of eight days’ “unpaid” wages was far from sufficient.
Amidst reports of sharp adverse social impact on the workers as a result of the closure of the mills, a civil rights organization, fighting for the workers’ rights, has alleged that the Wearit CEO has denied all the demands of the workers, despite the order of the Industrial Tribunal last year wanting workers to be paid for all the 158 days, as also reinstatement of 300 of them.
Giving the example of a worker Jitendra Dhangar, 27, who recently committed suicide, it said, this happened because he was increasingly finding it unbearable to manage his family in view of a marriage of his brother. On the day of funeral, the police stopped women from reaching Dhangar’s house and garlanding the body, going so far as to lathi charge, hurting about five women.
A symptom of the how the refusal to pay wages has impacted workers is, many workers’ children being forced shifted to government schools from private schools in order to save expenses.
In its statement, the top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), which is backing workers’ struggle for their rights for the last about a year, said that the workers, through trade unions, had filed a contempt case before the industrial tribunal, which had asked the managements of the two companies to pay up the wages.
As a result of the labour commissioner was “compelled to summon the company directors and issue orders for payment of eight days wages when the workers produced and earned profit for Century”, but “the decision on the rest about 158 days payment was not taken”, adding, the labour commissioner has full powers, to pressurize the current and past owners.
NAPM said, the Madhya Pradesh government “stands exposed” in the case of 1,200 workers and 400 staff members of Century Yarn/Denim , sold to Wearit, because of the stance taken by the labour commissioner.
The state BJP rulers, NAPM alleged, on one hand claims ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas’. Despite refusal of the payment of wages, the “authorities of the Madhya Pradesh government in Indore have remained biased” and refused to ensure “justice to the workers.”
The matter is currently pending with the Madhya Pradesh High Court’s Indore bench. The hearings were concluded on February 7. However no orders have yet been filed. In an earlier ruling, the High Court said, it had “not stayed the order of the industrial tribunal.”
NAPM has demanded that the textile unit should be reopened, run and workers should be permitted to work, and the sale deed with Wearit, which has been retrenching, harassing, exploiting – through late or no full payment – its workers in other factories nearby, should be declared as null and void.
The statement, signed, among others by well-known social activists Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Shankar Singht, Prafulla Samanta, Binayak Sen, Kavita Srivastava, Sandeep Pandey and others, also demanded payment of relief-cum-compensation to the tune of Rs 5 lakh to the family members of Dhangar, who was forced to commit suicide.

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