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20 auto sector workers lose hands/fingers every day: Report

By Deepak Arora

GURUGRAM, Aug 15: While India is celebrating her 73rd Independence Day, its unfornate to learn that about 20 workers on an average lose their hands and/or fingers in Gurgaon and Manesar automobile factories every day, according to a report by Safe in India (SII) Foundation.

Safe in India (SII) is an NGO that was launched in 2015 by three alumni of Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) namely Sandeep Sachdeva, Ravi Gulati and Prabhat Agarwal. SII is funded and supported mainly by the alumni of IIM Ahmedabad and IIT Roorkee.

The study titled "Crushed" revealed rampant accidents and the plight of injured workers in the automotive industry in India. The report, launched here by Gurugram Divisional Commissioner Ashok Sangwan, is based on real experience of over 1,300 injured workers in Gurguram and Manesar.

Union Minister of State Labour & Employment Santosh Kumar Gangwar spoke to the audience through a video message.

Post the launch, several experts shared their views on the subject. The experts included Vipul Mudgal, Director & CEO, common Cause; Prof Ravi Srivastava, Chairman Institute of Development studies and Ex-Professor JNU; Pawan Kumar, Secretary, BMS Zonal Organisation, Rajiv Khandelwal, Founder CEO Aajeevika Bureau; Sanjay Gaba, Chairman youth INTUC; and Sandeep Sachdeva, Co-Founder & CEO of SII.

The report, work of over two years, states that 83 per cent of machines had no/malfunctioning safety sensors; 48 per cent of workers felt excessive production pressure from supervisors; 52 per cent accidents happen on only one type of machine – the power press; and 47 per cent lacked or had poor quality of safety gear.

It was also pointed out that 65 per cent were below 30 years of age and a similar percentage were contract workers.

While 93 per cent were making components for Maruti-Suzuki, Honda or Hero, the report stated that this is a national issue as auto-brands are national and similar factors prevail in the supply chain factories across India.

Speaking at the launch, Co-founder & CEO of SII Sandeep Sachdeva pointed out that, “only our organisation comes across thousands of workers who have lost and keep losing their hands and fingers in auto-sector supply chain. The reality is obviously far worse."

He said the report titled "Crushed" highlights the issue of these severe accidents, their reasons and potential solutions to this not so unsurmountable a problem.

"We believe that this change has to be driven by the industry, especially the auto-brands who are the ultimate buyers of the components, in partnership with the government. The laws and guidelines exist under Factory Law and National Guidelines for Responsible Business Conduct. The challenge is to implement them well and show the smaller factories what good looks like," he added.

Sandeep Sachdeva said "we want to continue working with these stakeholders and indeed the workers to prevent these accidents from happening, which will help both the workers and the businesses.”

Sandeep added “our work is not over with this report. This is a long journey and we will continue reporting on the issue and pursue our recommendations with the industry and the government contructively for as long as it takes to start preventing these accidents”

Another co-founder Prabhat Agarwal stated "thousands of workers lose their hands or fingers in accidents in auto-sector factories every year and this is just in Gurgaon. The numbers across India are likely to be staggering. The majority of these workers are young, internal migrants, and contractual, working in factories that supply components to the car and two-wheeler manufacturers."

He said the lack of safety culture in these factories and incessant pressure of producing at lowest cost results in these large number of mutilations. Very often these workers then lose their jobs or have to compromise on types of jobs and salaries they can earn which has an unfortunate effect on their families too.

Since its foundation, SII has assisted almost 2,000 such injured workers obtain better ESIC (Employee State Insurance Corporation) healthcare and almost Rs 15 crore value of ESIC compensation.

SII assures that it wouldl continue assisting such workers as they need this help. However, SII is also working on systemic long term change.

First, SII has been working with ESIC national and regional management to help them improve their healthcare and compensation practices for workers in Gurgaon and nationally. The second systemic change that SII has now started working on is to prevent these accidents from happening.

While the big auto companies appear to have their health and safety policies in place, it is the suppliers to these companies who need to strengthen their safety practices policies.

SII had shared the key findings confidentially with the boards of Maruti, Honda and Hero to discuss and agree constructive actions to prevent these accidents. None of them has objected to the findings of the report and all have accepted that there is need for action.

While Maruti-Suzuki have been quick in responding and taking a few actions, Honda has also started seeking information from their supply chain.

The Labour Ministry has also instructed the relevant department, Directorate General Factory Advice Service and Labour Institutes (DG FASLI), to form a working group to address the findings of the report and has held meetings with the Chief Inspector of Factories (CIF) Gurugram.

India’s passenger vehicle sales drop at steepest pace in nearly two decades

NEW DELHI, Aug 13: India’s domestic passenger vehicle sales in July dived at the steepest pace in nearly two decades, an auto industry body said on Tuesday, as a financing crunch deepened a crisis in the country’s autos sector and triggered large-scale job losses.

Sales of passenger vehicles to car dealers plunged 30.9% to 200,790 in July, the ninth straight month of declines, data released by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) showed.

The drop in sales is the worst since December 2000, when the industry sold a fifth of the vehicles it sells currently.

The crisis in the autos sector presents a major problem for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, just as he begins his second term in office, as the sector accounts for nearly half of India’s manufacturing output. The auto industry employs over 35 million people directly and indirectly.

“If this industry goes down, then everything gets hurt. Manufacturing, jobs and revenue to the government,” Vishnu Mathur, director general, SIAM, told reporters on Tuesday, adding that car and motorcycle manufacturers have already slashed about 15,000 jobs.

The pace of decline has accelerated in recent months, as a liquidity crunch in India’s shadow banking sector has dried up lines of credit to both auto dealers and potential car buyers.

It was reported last week that companies in the sector - which includes manufacturers, auto parts makers and dealerships - have so far cut as many as 350,000 jobs.

The Indian unit of German auto parts maker Bosch Ltd told Indian exchanges on Tuesday it would restructure its operations and adjust workforce in the light of a sector slowdown.

India’s jobless rate climbed to 7.51% in July from 5.66% a year earlier, according to private data group CMIE.

The latest auto sales figures imply that India’s GDP growth that has already slid to a near five-year low, is likely to show signs of further erosion for April-June when fresh data will be released later this month.

The downturn - regarded by industry executives as the worst ever suffered by the Indian auto industry - has already sent the S&P BSE auto sector index tumbling more than 23% this year, while shares of the country’s top carmaker Maruti Suzuki have slumped more than 20% since the beginning of 2019.

The domestic autos industry asked for tax breaks and easier access to finance for dealers and buyers at a meet with Indian government officials last week.

“The data shows an urgent need for a revival package from the government. The industry is doing everything possible to increase sales, but it needs government support to prevent the crisis from worsening,” Mathur told reporters in New Delhi.

Motorcycle and scooters sales fell 16.8% to about 1.51 million units, while passenger car sales dived 36% to 122,956 units, the data showed. Commercial vehicles sales plunged 25.7% to 56,866 units, SIAM said.

The data also showed that domestic passenger vehicle production was down nearly 17% in the month.

“We are hopeful of a revival package soon,” Mathur said.



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