Hum Ko Bacha Lo: Death of a Worker in Gurgaon

April 6, 2014

[Organisations which were part of the Fact Finding Team: Krantikari Naujawan Sabha (KNS), Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra (IMK), Mazdoor Patrika, Perspectives, People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), Sanhati and Workers’ Unity.]

On 29th March 2014, several newspapers reported the death of a worker in a garment factory in the industrial area of Gurgaon, Haryana, and subsequent clashes between workers and police in the area. Members from seven Delhi-based organisations visited Gurgaon on 30th March and conducted a day long fact finding into the incident and its aftermath. We spoke to workers who were present in the factory that day, a relative of the deceased, police and hospital officials and local residents. We tried to talk to the management but were told by the security guards at the factory gate that no company officials were present on site. We present here the preliminary report of the team.

The Company

By all accounts, Orient Craft Limited is one of the top three readymade garment exporters in India. It had the second-highest export turnover among all apparel export companies in India in 2011-12 (Rs. 958.75 crore) and officially employed 29,300 persons on its rolls [1]. According to the Outlook Business magazine, the company earned revenues of Rs. 1,151 crores in the financial year 2013 and was the second largest employer in the Indian garment industry. It supplies to well-known international brands like Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic, Gap, Nike and Levi’s. From only four factories in Okhla in 1993, the company has grown to operate 22 manufacturing units in the NCR region where between 150,000 and 200,000 garments are made in a day [2]. Before the global recession hit the export-dependent garment sector, the company had ambitious expansion plans of developing two textile Special Economic Zones in Haryana and Andhra Pradesh [3]. It bought a garment manufacturing plant from the apparel giant Levi’s in 2005 for Rs. 60 crore. Business magazines and newspapers frequently write columns about the success of the company and the vision and hard work of its owner Mr. Sudhir Dhingra, while industry bodies like the Apparel Export Promotion Council (APEC) shower awards from time to time.

The factory unit of Orient Craft, where the incident occurred is located at Plot No. 7D, Sector 18, Udyog Vihar, a fifteen-minute walk from the manufacturing unit of Maruti Suzuki. Although the number of workers employed in this unit is not clear, it is anywhere between 5000 and 7500. According to one worker, around 3000 workers are permanent while the rest are hired on a contract basis through big labour contracting companies operating in the area. While the permanent workers are paid Rs. 5900 (they get Rs. 5100 after Rs. 800 is deducted towards PF), the contract workers get around Rs. 5700 per month. These wages, calculated on the basis of minimum wages for unskilled workers in Haryana, are far lower than wages in neighbouring Delhi. Only the permanent workers are entitled to ESI and PF benefits, and all workers have to work overtime anywhere between 40 to 100 hours in a month in order to earn enough to survive and send money to their families in the village. “No one ever earns more than Rs. 12000 after working for 12 to 14 hours in a day, irrespective of seniority or experience”, one worker told us.

The Incident

On 28th March, between 11:30 and 11:45 am, Sunil Pushkar, a worker in the tailoring department of the factory, suddenly collapsed on his seat in front of the electronic sewing machine. The supervisor, line in-charge and two fellow workers rushed him to the dispensary located within the company premises, where they were told to take him to the hospital [4]. He died by the time they took him to Saraswati hospital in Gurgaon. Sunita and Manju, two other women workers on the factory floor also fainted after witnessing the incident. According to one worker who was with him till the end, Sunil had died before they could leave the company gates. One of his relatives told us that the last words he uttered were “Ham ko bacha lo (save me)”. Hospital authorities informed the police at 4:40 pm that Sunil had been ‘brought dead’ and handed over the body to them, who sent it to the civil mortuary in Gurgaon for a post-mortem. According to ASI Jaipal Singh at the Sector-18 Udyog Vihar Police Station, the post-mortem report showed that Sunil had died of a heart attack, and his viscera had been sent to PGIMS, Rohtak for further examination.

Sunil Pushkar was 35 years old, hailed from Itaga village in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, and is survived by his wife Savita Pushkar and three children. He was a permanent worker in this unit of Orient Craft for the past seven years. His basic pay was Rs. 6000, and in addition he was paid an attendance award of Rs. 500 (for not taking holidays), and a seniority bonus of Rs. 1040. Unlike many other migrant workers in Gurgaon who live without their families, Sunil was staying with his family in Sarhaul village. Sarhaul, part of the Gurgaon Municipal Corporation, is one of the several villages adjacent to Udyog Vihar where lakhs of workers stay in small shared tenements in abysmal conditions in order to eke out a living in one of northern India’s busiest industrial districts.

It is widely believed that Sunil died of electrocution; this has been reported in newspapers, and was told to us by workers and local residents as well, although there are many versions regarding how it could have happened. According to some workers, an official from a buying house was supposed to visit the unit that day and machines had been cleaned prior to his visit. It is possible that some wires had been left loose in the process which caused the accident. One worker told us that there could be a fault with the electronic sewing machine, and the accident could’ve occurred because workers usually sit bare feet on these machines. Workers claimed that it was impossible to know the immediate cause since the pressure of work did not allow them to look up from their own tables, and it was a while before they even realised that someone had collapsed. Few believed that a healthy man like Sunil could’ve had a heart attack without any reason.

The Aftermath

Orient Craft workers had gathered in large numbers outside the factory gate after Sunil was taken away to the hospital. ASI Jaipal Singh told us that the police received information of workers gathering around 12 noon and they sent 65 policemen from different stations to the factory gate “in order to avert any trouble”. When workers realised that Sunil had died, they were angry and demanded that his body should be returned to them. There was a fear that the management could try to hush up the death or file a false report in order to avoid liability and compensation. Such instances are not unheard of in the garment factories of Udyog Vihar. According to one worker, two general managers of the company told them, “What will you do with the body? Why don’t you settle for compensation?” Workers were furious on hearing this and got into a scuffle with management officials. The police responded with lathi charge and tear gas shells and workers pelted bricks and stones at the police officials. Workers were chased back to their residential quarters in Sarhaul village, and police broke into some rooms and beat up the occupants. According to newspaper reports, nearly two dozen people including workers as well as policemen were injured in clashes that day. A local newspaper reported that ACP Industry Balwan Singh filed a FIR against factory workers, including Ramanand, Sanjeev, Kailash, Geeta, Ghanshyam and Kesari Devi and unnamed others.

Company officials continued to claim that Sunil had died of normal causes while workers were convinced that he was electrocuted due to the negligence of factory managers. Sunil’s body was taken to his village and cremated on Saturday, 29th March. We were told that one of the company managers accompanied the family to the village and was still there with them. Local residents and workers reported that the family has been given Rs. 8-9 lakh as compensation, although the exact amount is not known and it is not certain whether they have actually received it. Meanwhile, workers gathered outside the factory gate on Saturday too, to protest against the negligence and callousness of company officials. The police were already prepared this time round, they again lathi charged, lobbed tear gas shells and “were successful in chasing away the workers”. Local newspaper reports quoted police sources as claiming that one ACP and one SI were injured in the clashes. Many bystanders and workers were injured, and one worker was reported seriously injured by the explosion of a teargas canister. We could not meet any of the injured workers and it was difficult to ascertain the number of workers who were hurt on both days, since none of them are going to hospitals of the area for treatment as they fear identification and arrest by the police.

Who Is Culpable?

“They are least bothered about our lives and every other day somebody gets injured due to electrocution. They have been approached many times but in vain. We called the police after the death of the worker but they also supported the management and so we had to resort to this protest.”

Worker in an interview to The Tribune, 29 March 2014

Although several details of the accident and its aftermath are not clear, there are certain points that emerge from our conversations with workers, local residents and police officials. First, there were serious lapses on part of the company officials in dealing with the incident. There was no attempt to seriously investigate the cause of death; their entire effort was geared towards portraying Sunil’s death as normal, hushing up the matter and resuming work as early as possible. The manner in which they responded to workers aggrieved by the death of a fellow worker, suggests insensitivity and avoidance of any liability. The promise of an ad hoc compensation amount to the family implies that the company did not want to follow legal procedures under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923. More importantly, they wanted to avoid an inquiry and being charged with criminal liability under penal offences like Section 304A of the IPC (Death due to negligence) and hence tried to arrive at an ‘informal settlement’ with the family.

Second, it was apparent to us that police officials were called to the factory gate on both days at the behest of company officials, and they treated the gathering of workers demanding answers as a ‘law and order problem’. Instead of trying to pacify the workers or giving them a patient hearing, policemen resorted to violence with the sole aim of chasing them away from the factory site. In a case of clear partisanship, the police have registered a FIR against workers (named and unnamed) for rioting but no FIR has been filed for finding out if Sunil Pushkar’s death was caused by negligence. It is now feared that the FIR will be used by the company management to fire many permanent workers, especially those vocal in the two-day agitation.

Third and perhaps most importantly, whatever might be the proximate cause of Sunil’s death, it cannot be denied that terrible conditions of work and living have played a role in his death, as well as in the protests that occurred for two days. Everyone we spoke to complained about the intense pressure to meet production targets in the factory. As Sunil’s relative, himself a former employee at this Orient Craft unit, told us, “No one has the time to talk in Orient Craft. The management only asks for work. They don’t listen to anything. That is why no one realised that my uncle had been injured”. Production targets are as high as 150-200 shirts per hour, if the shirt is of a simple design. The glittering success of Orient Craft, its high export turnover, global reputation and tie ups with international brands, and the capacity to expand its production capacity and reach out to widening markets, can be traced to the ever-increasing work intensity on its factory floors, ensured by an army of supervisors and by deploying technology. We were told that 3-4 years ago, Orient Craft started the practice of monitoring individual tailors with stopwatches in order to calculate the amount of time taken to stitch a piece of garment. This practice was further refined 1-2 years ago with the introduction of magnetic card readers. Now, every bundle of cloth that arrives at the desk of a tailor is accompanied by a magnetic card. Every tailor has to punch this card on the card reading machine at the beginning and conclusion of operations, which relays data regarding how many seconds each worker takes per task, and how many pieces he/she has finished in a day. Since the installation of these machines, work intensity has increased markedly. One bundle usually has 10-15 garment pieces and a worker is expected to finish working on 5-10 bundles in an hour.

Workers, majority of whom are skilled tailors, either work on the basis of piece rates or are paid according to minimum wages for unskilled labourers. This means that most of them actively seek overtime work and have to work far beyond the stipulated 8 hours to earn a subsistence income. Given the long hours, punishing production schedules, low pay and the intensity of work, it is not surprising that the factory floor is marked by tension, accidents due to work-related stresses, and confrontations between workers and management. Even ASI Jaipal Singh was forced to admit to us that the fury of workers that erupted for two days may have been the result of anger and discontent simmering for a long time. We were told that a few days ago, a contract worker suffering from jaundice had resumed work despite not recovering fully and had died within the factory. Another incident narrated to us was from last summer, when a pregnant woman who was denied maternity leave due to her, succumbed to her injuries after her sari was caught in the blades of a desert cooler in the factory. In March 2012, in another unit of Orient Craft in Sector 37, Udyog Vihar, a worker was attacked and injured by the supervisor after some of them took leave on Sunday [5].

To conclude, the incident of 28th March is neither isolated nor unconnected to the general living and working conditions of garment industry workers in Gurgaon. Orient Craft Limited, which now also operates factories in Bangladesh to take advantage of lower wages of workers there, has accumulated profits in the last twenty years on the basis of increasing work intensity and by suppressing the wages of its employees. The costs of these profits are borne by workers like Sunil Pushkar, who have to pay for it with their physical and mental health, and their lives. The Haryana government and its labour department chooses to look the other way while companies like Orient Craft bring much-celebrated export earnings, tax revenues and employment opportunities to the state. Accidents and incidents like these only serve to illuminate the drudgery and inhuman conditions that mark the everyday routines and lives of workers of garment industry in India and elsewhere.


1. Press Release of Apparel Export Promotion Council (APEC), 23rd February 2013.

2. The website of the Labour Department, Government of Haryana, lists 16 factory units spread across the industrial districts of Manesar and Gurgaon.

3. Formal approval had been granted by the government to the planned 114 hectare SEZ in Gurgaon, and the company was planning to develop a 300-acre SEZ in Andhra Pradesh at a cost of over Rs. 2000 crore.

4. Workers told us that the company dispensary did not have a trained doctor, and is managed by a compounder who gives the same medicines for most ailments. Sunil did not receive any treatment for half an hour when he was taken to the dispensary and this may have contributed to this death.

5. In a familiar turn of events, workers at that time had gathered outside the factory gates to protest, and there were clashes between police and workers with several people injured, and FIRs being filed subsequently against many workers for attempted murder. Ten workers were arrested and sent to judicial custody, as per newspaper reports of that time. Incidentally, the official version offered by the company then was that the worker had been accidentally injured by falling on a piece of glass.


ओरिएंट क्राफ्ट, गुडगाँव में हुई एक मज़दूर की मौत एवं उसके बाद पुलिस दमन पर फैक्ट फाइंडिंग रिपोर्ट

(इस फैक्ट फाइंडिंग टीम में संहति दिल्ली, पर्सपेक्टिव, pudr , वर्कर्स यूनिटी, IMK , मज़दूर पत्रिका, KNS के साथी मौज़ूद थे )

गुडगाँव सेक्टर 18 स्थित ओरिएंट क्राफ्ट फैक्ट्री में शुक्रवार 28 मार्च को फैक्ट्री के अंदर करंट लगने से एक मज़दूर सुनील कि मौत हो गयी. गौरतलब है कि गुडगाँव कि अधिकाँश फॅक्टरियों में सुरक्षा नीतियों में लापरवाही और अत्यंत तनाव भरे माहौल में काम के दौरान दुर्घटना एक सामान्य घटना बनती जा रही है. मार्च 2012 में भी ओरिएंट क्राफ्ट के ही गुडगाँव सेक्टर 37 स्थित यूनिट में भी सुपरवाइजर द्वारा कैची से एक मज़दूर पर हमले के दौरान भी ऐसा ही एक मामला प्रकाश में आया था.

ओरिएंट क्राफ्ट देश कि सबसे बड़ी गारमेंट निर्यातक कंपनी है, जो कई महंगे विदेशी गारमेंट ब्रांड जैसे कि DKNY मार्क एंड स्पेंसर, फिच, और टॉमी हिलफिगर जैसे ब्रांड्स बनाती है. इस कंपनी के एनसीआर, दिल्ली और गुडगाँव में ही कई यूनिट हैं. सेक्टर 18 स्थित यूनिट में तकरीबन ६०००-७००० मज़दूर काम करते हैं. घटनाक्रम कि शुरुआत शुक्रवार 28 मार्च को हुई, जब किसी हायर मैनेजमेंट या मालिक के सम्भावित दौरे के मद्देनज़र एक दिन पहले साफ़ सफाई के दौरान किसी इलेक्ट्रिक तार के लूज रह जाने कि वजह से एक मशीन में करंट आ रहा था. कानपूर के इटागा के रहने वाले सुनील, जिसकी उम्र तकरीबन 35 वर्ष थी, जो कि फैक्ट्री में टेलरिंग का काम करता था, सुबह कि शिफ्ट के शुरू होने पर वह जब मशीन पर बैठा, तो करंट लगने से बुरी तरह घायल हो गया. तभी साथ काम करने वाले करमचारियों ने दौड़ कर बिजली सप्लाई को बंद किया और सुनील को कंपनी स्थित डिस्पेंसरी में ही प्राथमिक चिकित्सा के लिए ले गए. हम लोगों से बातचीत के दौरान कंपनी में काम कर रहे अन्य मज़दूरों ने बताया कि डिस्पेंसरी में कभी भी कोई सुविधा या डॉक्टर नहीं होते हैं और डिस्पेंसरी बस एक औपचारिकता के तहत चलाया जाता है , जिसमें एक अनट्रेंड कम्पाउण्डर हर बीमारी के लिए एक ही दवा देते रहते हैं. मज़दूरों ने हमें बातचीत में बताया कि आधे घंटे तक कोई भी कार्यवाही नहीं कि गयी और करंट लगने से हुई नाजुक हालत में भी कंपनी प्रबंधन का रवैया बहुत ही गैरजिम्मेदाराना बना रहा. आधे घंटे के बाद जब एम्बुलेन्स से सुनील को हॉस्पिटल भेजा गया, और कुछ देर बाद मज़दूरों को प्रबंधन ने सुनील कि मौत कि जानकारी उसके ह्रदय गति के रुकने कि वजह से बतायी गयी तब तक कि प्रबंधन कि की गयी लापरवाही एवं इस सफ़ेद झूट पर मज़दूरों का गुस्सा उबाल पड़ा और मज़दूर फैक्ट्री गेट पर आ कर नारे और प्रदर्शन पर अड़ गए.

जैसे कि मज़दूरों का अलग अलग फैक्टरियों का अनुभव है कि फैक्ट्री में लापरवाही से होने वाली मौत कि ज्यादातर घटनाओं में कंपनी प्रबंधन लाश को गायब करने, झूठी रिपोर्ट बनाने, मुआवज़े से मुकरने, आवुं किसी भी तरह कि ज़िम्मेदारी लेने से बचती रहती है. इस बार भी अपने साथी के साथ ऐसा न हो, इसके लिए मज़दूर पहले से ही मुस्तैद थे. इसीलिए सारे मज़दूर फैक्ट्री गेट के सामने आ कर रोड को जाम कर दिए और मुआवज़े एवं उचित न्याय के लिए प्रबंधन के सामने अपनी बात पर दबाव बनाने के लिए प्रदर्शन करने लगे. इन सब के बावजूद भी जब कंपनी प्रबंधन का रवैय्या टाल मटोल का रहा, और पीछे से प्रबंधन ने पुलिस को भी बुला लिया. तब मज़दूरों ने उत्तेजित हो कर पुलिस के खिलाफ नारे लगाने शुरू कर दिए. पुलिस ने तब बर्बर तरीके से लाठी चार्ज किया और आंसू गैस के गोले भी छोड़े. मज़दूरों ने भी जवाबी कारवाई में पुलिस के ऊपर पथराव किया. पुलिस ने मज़दूरों को गली में एवं घर में घुस कर और दौड़ा दौड़ा कर पीटा. पुलिस के इस बर्बर करवाई में कई मज़दूरों को बहुत ज़यादा चोटें आयी और एक मज़दूर आंसू गैस के सिलिंडर फटने से गम्भीर रूप से घायल हुआ. पुलिस ने हवाई फायरिंग भी कि और इस सब भगदड़ में मज़दूरों को बहुत ज़यादा चोटें आयीं. पर ज़्यादातर घायल मरीज छुप छुप कर गाँव में ही या अपने घर पर जा के इलाज करा रहे हैं, क्योंकि उन्हें डर है कि गुडगाँव में इलाज कराने से पुलिस उनके खिलाफ भी केस कर देगी.

अगले दिन शनिवार को जब मज़दूर फैक्ट्री पर जा रहे थे, तब पहले पहुचे मज़दूरों ने कंपनी गेट पर कंपनी के सोमवार तक बंद होने कि नोटिस पायी. कुछ मज़दूर वापिस लौट रहे थे और काफी मज़दूर कंपनी गेट पर धीरे धीरे जमा हो गए. कंपनी गेट पे शुक्रवार से ही काफी पुलिस फाॅर्स इकठ्ठा हो रखी थी, और एक बार फिर से पुलिस और मज़दूरों के बीच झड़प शुरू हो गयी. पुलिस ने दोबारा लाठी चार्ज कि और मज़दूरों ने भी पुलिस पर जम कर पथराव किया. पोस्टमार्टम रिपोर्ट में मज़दूर कि मौत का कारण करंट बताया गया था. मज़दूरों का गुस्सा मैनेजमेंट कि लापरवाही कि वजह से मौत, उस पर हार्ट अटैक से मौत जैसी झूठी बात, डिस्पेंसरी में बुनियादी सुविधाओं कि कमी, सुनील को अस्पताल में भर्ती करने में देरी, एवं मृत्युपरांत मुआवजे में टाल मटोल पर था.
इन सब के आलावा रोज़ रोज़ काम के दौरान छोटी मोटी बहसें अत्यंत तनावपूर्ण एवं निचोड़ने कि हद तक थकाऊ कार्य व्यवस्था से मज़दूर पहले से ही परेशान रहते हैं. एक मज़दूर को एक मिनट से भी कम समय में एक पीेछे कि सिलाई करनी पड़ती है. औसतन ८० पीेछे प्रति घंटे का टारगेट होता है. आज कल इस समय को ट्रैक करने के लिए एक इलेक्ट्रॉनिक बार टाइमर कि मदद ली जाती है, जो प्रति घंटे फिनिश होने वाले पीसों के समय कि निगरानी करता है. इस टारगेट को भी समय समय पर बढ़ाया जाता रहता है, जिसमें सेकंड दर सेकंड का हिसाब किया जाता है.

“अगर शर्ट की डिजाइन सरल है , तो उत्पादन लक्ष्य प्रति घंटे 150-200 शर्ट तक कि होती हैं . 3-4 साल पहले , सुपरवाइजर स्वयं स्टॉप घड़ियों के साथ प्रत्येक पीस पर लगने वाले समय कि निगरानी करते थे , पिछले साल से मैग्नेटिक कार्ड रीडर के द्वारा समय कि नागरानी राखी जाती है, हरेक सिलाई मशीन प् कार्ड रीडर लगा है, और कपडे के हर बण्डल के साथ एक मैग्नेटिक कार्ड भी आता है, जिससे हरेक पीस पर लगने वाले समय और हरेक घण्टे में फिनिश होने वाले पीसो का सेकंड दर सेकंड के हिसाब से समय रखा जाता है \ मृतक मज़दूर के भतीजे से बातचीत में पता चला कि फैक्ट्री के अंदर जिस तरह से समय का हिसाब रखा जाता है, वह पर किसी को बात करने, इधर उधर देखने कि फुर्सत ही नहीं है, यही कारन है कि कि बड़ी दुर्घटना हो जाने पर भी लोग एक दूसरे को देख या उसका संज्ञान नहीं ले सकते है |

अत्यंत तनाव भरे माहौल में काम करने से मज़दूर अक्सर बीमार, चिड़चिड़े, और अवसादग्रस्त रहते हैं.
परमानेंट मज़दूरों को इस फैक्ट्री में 5900 रुपये (800 पी ऍफ़ काटने के बाद 5100 ) और कॉन्ट्रैक्ट वर्कर को तक़रीबन 5700 रुपये मिलते हैं. ३ घंटे रोज़ एवं औसतन 40 -60 घंटे महीने में ओवरटाइम आम बात है.

पुलिस ने मज़दूरों के खिलाफ सेक्टर १८ में एस एच ओ बिजेंदर सिंह के कम्प्लेन के आधार पर ऍफ़ आई आर दर्ज कि है, जिसमें कंपनी के मज़दूर रामानंद, संजीव, कैलाश, गीता, घनश्याम, केसरदेवी, पुष्पादेवी को नामजद किया है और १०० अनाम प्रदर्शनकारियों पर भी ऍफ़ आई आर दर्ज कि है. मज़दूरों से बात चीत में उन्होंने बताया कि ज्यादातर कम्पनियां किसी भी विवाद के समय केस दर्ज को परमानेंट मज़दूरों को निकाल कर ठेके मज़दूरों की बहाली के मौके के रूप में इस्तेमाल करती हैं.