Caste in India is an important feature of all economic and social activities. Estimated to be around 25000 years old, the caste system has undergone various transformations from ancient verna system to contemporary jati system (Deshpande, 2005). Over the period society has grew more complex, the presence of conventional caste system is still predominant in social, economic and political behavior of people. In the market economy framework, the caste continue to restrict the mobility of people belonging to lower caste in various markets such as land, labour, credit and services necessary for economic activity. The division of labour on the basis of their caste is one of the fundamental functions of caste system. Due to long exclusion & deprivation of various social, political, civic and economic rights make the labour class belonging to lower caste vulnerable to various caste based discriminations.
National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCT) has always been the epicenter of job opportunities for people residing in adjoining states like Utter Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Bihar, etc. Its rapid urbanization and growth in various commercial, industrial, technological activities has led to emergence and expansion of both formal and informal sector enterprises. As per census of 2001 - 32.82% of population in Delhi is constituted by workers and marginal workers. Most of the small scale enterprises and manufacturing factories provide employment to male workers as 52.09% of total worker population is constituted by male workers and meager 9.37% are female. The Work Participation Rate (WPR) of Scheduled Caste is 30.9% of the total workforce. Among the total workers, 91.4 per cent workers are main workers (Census of India, 2001). The Migration is an important factor in increase of worker class in NCT as census of India, 2001 has recorded a decadal increase of around 40% in migration from other states.
NCT has been divided into 28 industrial estates, where around 25000 industrial units are located (Economic Survey of Delhi, 2001-02). There were around 6855 registered factories of both private and government in 2001, which has marginally increased to 6892 in 2008(Economic Survey of Delhi, 2008-09). Thousands of unregistered small scale factories have been running in many parts of NCT and adjoining areas like Faridabad, Bahadurgarh, Gurgaon, etc., which provide employment opportunities to thousands of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers residing in the NCT. Most of labour employed in these establishments and factories resides in nearby slum areas in unhygienic living conditions.
There are a number of studies conducted on various social, economic & demographic aspects (Garg 1987; Raju 1983) of labour mobility and living conditions of workers. However, very few studies have been done on role of cultural aspect most importantly and caste dynamics involved in recruitment of workers, motivational factors, social & economic relations, interpersonal relations, etc (Siddique 2008; Singh 2002; Ali 1996; Agrawal 1996). From the above mentioned studies it has been found that the caste plays an important roll in job opportunities, recruitment, wage structure etc., of worker employed in small scale industries and factories. To understand the reason behind the factor which leads to discrimination a beginning need to be made by studying the Caste Profile and Discrimination of Workers Employed in Factory Work.
Objectives of the Study:
1. To study the caste profile of factory workers.
2. To study the nature and extent of discrimination in Urban Labour Market.
In order to fully address the various research questions in this research project, such as the socio-economic & caste profile of workers employed in factories, both quantitative and qualitative research methods have been drawn upon in this study. The nature of the topic is a sensitive one so the majority of the research was formed through the analysis of secondary data such as books, journals, articles, official documents, papers presents during seminarsed, etc as the research is descriptive, investigation based and exploratory in nature.
In the light of such factors, primary or empirical research has been undertaken to offer an alternative insight into the issues. Data collection involved the use of an Interview Schedule and Interview Guide from the factory workers. A sample size of 30 workers was made for the study.
Study Area Profile:
Okhla Industrial Estate, an industrial suburb of New Delhi in South Delhi was established by National Small Industries Corporation and was one of the 12 such estates being developed across India to encourage small industries.
Okhla Industrial Phase I and Phase II is one of the 28 notified industrial areas of Delhi, as per the Master Plan of 2001. And revenue earners from this base include ready-made garment exporters and leather garment exporters, besides other segments of industry such as pharmaceutical manufacturing units, plastic and packaging industries, printing presses, machinery manufacturers, call centers, MNCs Office, Banks and others.
Findings of the Study:
The present study was motivated by the view that caste creates social infrastructure in our society. The present study was designed to understand the dynamics of caste and other factors involved in perpetuation of discrimination among factory workers specifically, the workers belonging to schedule caste and schedule tribe category. The overall purpose of the study is to understand the caste profile of workers engaged in factory work and also to find the qualitative and quantitative evidences of discrimination against scheduled caste category by workers of upper caste at their work environment and within their interpersonal relations specifically at their places of residence.
Since the emphasis of the study is to understand the caste profile of factory workers and their personal experiences pertaining to discrimination, the study involved analysis of available literature on the subject and also the interviews with the factory workers. For this a interview schedule (open ended) and an interview guide were used respectively.
The findings of the study lead to the following conclusion:
1. Caste Profile: As we all know that caste is the main factor of division of labour since traditional era in Indian society. The roots of caste have still not faded despite the enactment of various constitutional and legal safeguards for the deprived section of the society. It still functions as major determinant and root cause in division of labour and assigning them work according to their caste in the society as in the olden times, this situation has not been changed a bit, it is prevailing from generation to generation on the same footing as before . The data of the study revealed that most productive age of factory worker is between 30 to 40 years and mostly male workers are preferred in jobs involving physical activity. All respondents in the study were follower of Hindu religion however out of the total sample size majority of the workers belong to schedule caste category e.g; Balmiki, Jatav, Chamar, Bhupi, Mehtho & rajbhar.
Most of the respondents in the study were found to be literate till middle level only, some of them can read only and a few can write, . However their monthly wages varies on the basis of their skill set. All respondents included in the study have not got any training from anywhere and they have learned the skills from their experiences in the factory work.
In the urban-economic milieu the caste plays an important role in recruitment process as most of the jobs in factory are given through the personal contacts of the workers with the contractor or any other person in the factory premises. There are no formal guidelines for recruitment of labour workers in factories which this indicates that the rules of labour laws are not followed,even in some factories, if it exists, may not be followed strictly. Majority of the respondents in the study have got the jobs through personal contact without any formal recruitment process. All respondents were found to have migrated from their native places predominantly from the adjoining states like Uttar Pradesh & Bihar.
2. Discriminatory Practices: The discriminatory practices have been discussed with the main focus on the working conditions of workers and their personal experiences regarding prevailing of this practice whether express or implied. Most of the factories which are covered under the study have no facilities mentioned under the factories act for the welfare of the workers. The working hours of workers irrespective of their caste vary between 8-12 hours. There was no discrimination found with respect to working environment of the factory as such. But discrimination is found in the minds of the people as some of the workers from higher caste still don’t prefer to share their food with low caste workers or maintaining any personal relations with them.
On the personal front, the data collected through interview guide gave clear view of discriminatory practices directed against workers and their families belonging to scheduled caste category. The two case studies show that the practice of untouchability is still dominating the Indian society.
From the above two explanations, it has come into limelight that the condition of workers belonging to low caste category are still subject to various forms of discrimination. However they have learned to cope up with the problems and situation prevailing in the urban industrial environment. In the conducted study, it has been found that many of the workers belong to schedule caste categories have changed their surnames to hide their identity to escape this evil practice which is in the minds of the people whether it is the urban areas or rural. However the attitudes of upper caste people have still not changed and the intensity of discrimination towards the low caste worker has increased manifolds.
Research Scholar, Delhi University
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