Garment workers in south India are to receive counselling to help them cope with problems from work pressure to sexual harassment after a series of deaths in factories and hostels. Most of the those working in the $42 billion-a-year export industry are young women living in hostels far from home and forced to work long hours and endure sexual and verbal abuse. Twenty have died in the last three months in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, a garment manufacturing hub, many in suspected suicides.
"There is a lot of stress and trauma inside factories," said Aloysius Arokiam of Social Awareness and Voluntary Education, a civil society group. "The workers are treated as machines and not as young adults dealing with work pressure and emotional issues. There is no counselling to help them and no one is held accountable when they die."
Last month a 17-year-old spinning mill worker died in her hostel room, the tenth death recorded in Dindigul district in the last three months, according to the Tamilnadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU).
"Her family suspects she was sexually harassed in the mill and driven to commit suicide," the president of the TTCU Thivyarakhini Sesuraj told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "There is no thorough investigation into why these young people are dying. We are demanding a proper probe by senior officials."
Campaigners have recorded 10 more deaths in the Tirupur and Erode districts that make up what is known as the "Textile Valley of India", where much of the industry is located.
Karrupu Samy, director of READ, a charity that works with garment workers in the Erode district explained, "We have documented at least 55 deaths between 2015 and 2017, all suicides in mill hostels. These are not one-off cases."