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Poor labourers paying price for India's cheap car boom

Discussion in 'Hangout' started by Herbie, Jan 22, 2016.

  1. Herbie

    Herbie Regolare

    Grande Punto 1.4
    Visheshwar, a worker, displays his re-attached right hand, after an interview with Reuters in Gurgaon, January 5, 2016.

    In a dingy factory in the sprawling industrial hub of Manesar in northern India, a plastic moulding machine malfunctioned, mangling Visheshwar Prasad Singh's right hand as he made parts for a supplier to the country's major automakers.

    Singh was one of thousands of poor labourers, many temporary, who toil for 12 hours a day making auto parts for as little as $3-a-day to feed India's cheap car boom.

    "I had no training to use the machine and was asked to operate it one day," said the 51-year-old, who made parts for Ranee Polymers, supplying to Honda Motor Co (7267.T) and Yamaha Motor Co (7272.T).

    Doctors reattached his hand, but after 14 months and three operations it remains near-paralysed.

    The plant manager at Ranee Polymers said the company did not allow workers to operate machines without proper training. There were only one to two accidents a year at the plant, which employs 250 people, R.K. Rana said.

    Honda Cars India, which sources from Ranee, was not aware of the accident as it did not occur when making parts for the company, a spokeswoman said, adding that audits of incidents impacting safety or supplies were conducted.

    Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India said a spokesman was not available to comment. India Yamaha Motor did not respond.

    Car makers such as Maruti Suzuki India (MRTI.NS) and Hyundai Motor (005380.KS) see huge growth in India, set to become the world's third-largest auto market by 2020 as millions buy their first new car. Price tags can be as low as $3,000 for a new Tata Motors (TAMO.NS) Nano mini-car.

    India is also becoming a low-cost export hub for global car makers such as General Motors (GM.N) and Ford Motor (F.N).

    A worker makes auto parts on a machine inside a workshop in Faridabad, December 24, 2015.

    Consultant McKinsey estimates India's auto parts sector will grow five-fold to about $200 billion by 2026, with exports rising to $80 billion from $11 billion.

    As the sector expands, some of the work is sub-contracted out to small factories operating on paper-thin margins, where poor contract workers often have little or no access to safety equipment or health benefits, industry experts say.

    "Undoubtedly, the workforce of suppliers, especially at the bottom of the chain, are paying for the growth in the auto industry," said Puneet Gupta, associate director at consultant IHS Automotive. But with more focus on quality and with India becoming an export hub working conditions would improve, he added.

    Car makers say they conduct audits at their main suppliers, but it is not possible to check all the smaller companies that may be outsourced work.

    A Maruti spokesman said the company conducts safety and quality audits at its 400 direct suppliers and shares best shopfloor practices, including those related to safety and working conditions.

    Ford India and Hyundai, which manufacture cars in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, far from the Manesar hub, did not respond to an email seeking comment.


    A report by non-profit organisations Agrasar and Safe in India on safeguarding workers in the auto hub of Gurgaon and Manesar, outside Delhi, said most accidents occurred due to lack of training and safety inspections and poor machine maintenance.

    The region - some 50 km (31 miles) south of the capital and home to top car maker Maruti Suzuki along with hundreds of small factories - employs 80,000 workers, but there are only about 35 to 40 inspectors in total to monitor all industries in the area.

    A senior official in the state labour department said inspections happened once a year, or when a worker reported an accident - the leading cause of which was violations of safety rules such as having sensors or guards on machines, he said.

    Every year, more than 1,000 workers in the auto hub, most below 23 years of age, are injured seriously and lose their livelihoods, the report said.

    "Factory owners train people for a day or two and get them to operate machines. It is all about meeting targets," said Prerit Rana, founder of Agrasar, that helps rehabilitate injured workers.

    A part of a machine is tied with a cloth inside an auto parts workshop in Faridabad, December 24, 2015.


    The village of Mujesar in Faridabad, south of Delhi, is a labyrinth of auto part workshops, many operating in residential areas where most manufacturing is banned. In one of the hole-in-the-wall workshops, made up of two small rooms with a window the size of a computer screen for ventilation, Reet Lal coats metal parts with anti-rust chemicals, earning him 8,500 rupees ($125) a month.

    With a glove only in one hand and no mask, Lal endures nauseating smells for 12 hours a day to complete work outsourced by a firm whose website says it makes parts for Maruti, Tata Motors and GM.

    A Tata Motors spokeswoman said it no longer sources from the supplier due to poor quality of products. GM India said it did not source parts from that supplier.

    Kamala, a 30-year-old worker at another small workshop inFaridabad, spends hours on a wooden stool labouring over a rusted drilling machine.

    "My life is hell," said Kamala, a mother-of-two who spends part of about $2.50 she earns a day to treat chronic backache. "I hope my children don't have to go through the same."

    ($1 = 68.0102 rupees)
    (Reporting by Aditi Shah; Editing by Alex Richardson)

    SOURCE: http://in.reuters.com/article/india-autos-idINKCN0V00AW
    prabhjot and prashantgupta84 like this.
  2. asimpleson

    asimpleson Esperto

    Linea 1.3
    To curb these issues government can step in and stop or fix this problem at source. Occupational hazards have some rules and regulations which go unimplemented also due to prohibitive costs. For example power presses in SSIs even today are manually operated by workers and have personally witnessed people loosing fingers and portions of hand or limbs where reattaching is also almost impossible in many cases. I hear certain machines are banned in west but still sold here without any safety systems. Material handling also involves capital equipment expenditure which is beyond scope and in many cases disregarded as well by company managements. Unfortunately loss to humans is cheaper to fix in this country. Atleast looks like a major contributor for disregard for safety and systems. Applies to most industry in India esp. Small and Medium scale enterprises.
    prabhjot likes this.
  3. prabhjot

    prabhjot Esperto

    delhi ncr
    Am unsure of whether the Pune/Chakan etc auto hub or the Chennai etc one are as bad as this, BUT the scene in Delhi ncr is really nasty. Of course in the absence of good, responsible trade unions (outsourcing and sub contracting is practiced precisely, partly, to prevent worker-organizations) and of any meaningful labour and environmental law enforecement, since all political parties and netas are so strongly identified with owners, companies, builders and businessmen: Delhi NCR, esp Manesar and gurgaon is really quite bad.

    A large part of the blame IMO does indeed go to Maruti or rather Suzuki for their historic utter ruthlessness with their workforce and their suppliers. Since historically they have been the major anchor industrial investor in Gurgaon (since the early 80's).

    Maruti enjoys some of the highest profit margins of any car maker or brand in the world, including Mercedes, and Ferrari (about 13-15% per vehicle). And has had severe labour-management, violent conflict in the last 2-3 years. They can afford to and must try to audit and improve working etc conditions at their suppliers, even their tier 2/3/4 ones?

    Especially at their upcoming new Gujrat plant+supplier park etc. There too workers will be un-organized, there too the govt, police, political parties etc will be totally on its side. They will, hopefully, NOT allow a repetition of the industrial ecology they fostered in Gurgaon/Manesar.

    In the end, it is for the 'govt', the local political parties and politicians and the workers themselves to foster a better industrial ecology. ABSENT that, such as in Manesar/gurgaon (though things are a bit better nowaays relative to the bad old days of the 80's/90's) the large firm at the APEX of the supply chain HAS to enforce some standards right across that chain. Even if it means their costing/margins are a bit crimped. Esp if you are 'Maruti' or Hyundai': i.e., very, even ultra-profitable.
  4. asimpleson

    asimpleson Esperto

    Linea 1.3
    @prabhjot every where in India private vendors have lesser or no system of adopted policy for safety systems or standards during manufacturing or processing. In some cases though certain mega corporations make sure their vendors adapt these safety standards. And they can have considerable influence on vendors too. However government can have safety level certifications for plant and machinery that is user or buyer friendly and which can be made mandatory or create programs that phase out older technology with some tax incentives for safer technology propogation. There is however the matter of excess automation which can lead to massive job losses as has happened due to rapid evolution of certain tech that gobbled up the jobs of certain skilled professionals. Absorbing those people has been difficult and unnecessary in majority cases. Future is already looking like the VW factory of Minority Report.
    prabhjot likes this.

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