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Archive for April, 2010

[First published in Frontline magazine in October 2007]

Thousands of teenaged girls are exploited for labour in the textile mills of Tamil Nadu

sumangali scheme

Picture credit: Somo.nl

“Earn Rs.40,000. Work as an apprentice for three years,” said the bold print in Tamil on the colour pamphlet. This was “a unique opportunity for young women”, it said. There were other attractions mentioned: “We also give tasty food and comfortable accommodation in the hostel. Daily stipend Rs.50.” Lakshmi, 15, who hails from Kambam in Theni district, did not want to miss this opportunity. It would mean the end of drudgery for her family of agricultural labourers; the “modern facilities” and “kulu kulu vasadhi” (air-conditioning) were a bonus.

The agent advertising job opportunities in a Tirupur-based textile mill found one more potential recruit in Lakshmi. He showed her the pamphlet and suggested that the amount she would get after three years could take care of her marriage expenses. Lakshmi and her parents were convinced, and she set out to Tirupur. The three-year-period ended recently, but Lakshmi is yet to get the promised amount. And with every passing day she is losing hope.

In at least 17 districts in Tamil Nadu thousands of teenage girls have been lured by agents to work in private textile mills, which are estimated to number over 1,600, under what they call the “sumangali” scheme.

(more…)

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