Narol, in Gujarat, is an industrial hub that manufactures readymade garments, especially jeans, shirts, pants and T-shirts.
For the multinational companies operating there, it is a money-making machine. And yet very little of that cash flow makes its way into the hands of impoverished workers, most of them women, and many of them migrants.
Workers are given impossible targets each day — of stitching about 400 to 500 pieces, which is estimated to be three or four times what is humanly possible. As a result, they work at a frantic pace, often forgoing meal breaks or using the toilet.
Overtime comes without any incentives or wages, coerced by threat of termination for refusal. Visits from family are not encouraged and there have been numerous unregistered complaints of sexual harassment in the confines of these units.
In the past five years, the number of women employees has increased by 15 per cent in the textile industry, and in Gujarat, the rate is double. Around 35 million are employed in the Indian textile industry of which nearly 20 million are women.
Multinationals flaunt the fruits of their labor in the world of glitz and glamour. But the women themselves are largely invisible, as is their hard work and contribution to the economy and society as a whole.
While the industry reaps higher and higher profits, the workers, with the cheap labor they provide, disproportionately bear the long-term costs in terms of their health, security, well-being and basic human dignity.