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2021: Year in Review. Safe in India completes its first five years!

When we started our operations with our first Worker Assistance Centre in Manesar, Gurgaon in December 2016, we had only a faint but impassioned idea of where would be in five years.

Five years down, we are humbled by the difference we have been able to make in the lives of a few thousand workers, the partnerships that made it possible for us to keep going, and the stakeholders that have (and are) joining hands with us to save hands. Here is a three minute video with highlights of 2021 and glimpses of our first five years:

Where it all began – Direct worker support (Pillar 1)

We have now assisted 3,597 injured workers – 985 in 2021, highest in any year, despite COVID disruptions - with their healthcare and compensation. Total compensation value now stands at Rs. 25+ crores.

Of these, 80% are from auto-sector factories, 70% have lost their hands/fingers, 92% are migrants of the type we saw on the roads walking back to their villages during the first COVID lockdown, 70% work on contract without appropriate employer-employee relationship,62% are very young - below 30 years of age and hardly anyone is a member of any Union.

Clearly, they are some of the most vulnerable and marginalized people in our country, who need support from all of us, the auto sector, and the government – not only to avoid this human tragedy but also to improve Indian labour productivity from its current poor global ranking of 115.

Systemic changes informed by worker experiences

Pillar 2 (Improving work-place safety in the auto sector): These workers tell us their experiences - of their accidents, the causes, and the pressures they are under. To prevent these accidents from happening, we have been advocating for change in auto-sector manufacturing with the top 10 auto-sector brands and the government – central and Haryana state.

This advocacy has been based on evidence collected from around 3,000 injured workers from the auto sector over the past five years – and which has led to our annual series of reports – CRUSHED2019, CRUSHED2020 – and now CRUSHED2021, which will be released on January 26, 2022, in the presence of 100+ injured workers.

To join us and 100+ injured workers at the release of CRUSHED2021 on 26th January 2022, 1130am-130pm IST, pleased register/join online at the zoom link here.

In addition, we launched the first edition of our new report series - SafetyNiti 2021, which analyses the worker safety policies of the top 10 auto-sector brands in the country for their own (ever-increasing proportion of) contract workers and workers in their deeper supply chain. We found them inadequate and, backed by the data and recommendations in the report, have started advocating for their improvement.

Since the start of our accident prevention advocacy efforts in 2018, we are pleased that Maruti-Suzuki, SIAM, and ACMA have engaged well. And in 2021, we started receiving better response from Honda and Hero – the two other larger brands in our NCR-worker base. After SafetyNiti 2021, Eicher and Hyundai have also stared engaging constructively with us. Other brands’ involvement with us needs to improve. Haryana ISH (Industrial Safety and Health) agreed to set up a joint ISH-Maruti-Honda-Hero discussion platform in 2021, and we now have one cluster safety assessment in progress.

DG FASLI, India’s central factory safety advisory, conducted its first worker safety training pilot with us, with plans to scale up soon. SII data base is from Nov 2016. We have also been informed of a suo-moto case by Haryana Human Rights Commission, based on our CRUSHED reports, seeking response from stakeholders, which includes a few OEMs.

We have various recommendations under discussion (some sadly progressing too slow - also due to Covid) with the MSME Ministry, BIS, SIAM, ACMA, and several others. This is just a start and there is a very long way to go to save thousands of workers from getting crushed every year!

Pillar 3: Improving healthcare policy at ESIC: Our efforts for advocating improvement in ESIC healthcare and compensation services continued during 2021, though hampered by COVID. We started a series of worker surveys called “ESIC Ki Baat, Aapkay Saath” to make worker voice reach ESIC top management.

Although our recommendations on the above have yet to have a significant impact, we were pleased that ESIC improved its COVID-unemployment scheme with our feedback.

  • The scheme has now disbursed Rs. 80 crore+ and only one of our seven accepted-recommendations would have saved Rs. 2-3 crores for 50,000+ workers in the country.

  • We also assisted 184 workers receive Rs. 35 lacs under ESIC’s COVID unemployment scheme.

We are proud to have received a national award from the labour minister for our support to ESIC during COVID times and are currently in discussions with them to improve the health infrastructure for workers in 3-5 ESIC hospitals in 2022.

Pillar 4 (Empower through knowledge): Last but not the least, we re-intensified our outreach to workers – both physical (in their communities and in our Centers) and digital. In 2021, we conducted six worker focus groups (two in 2020) and 517 workers attended our 29 community meetings.

Overall, over five years, we now have 5,500+ workers who have visited our two centers – the second Worker Assistance Centre in Faridabad opened in January 2021 and moved to a larger and better location, closed to worker colonies, in December 2021.

On our Facebook Hindi page for workers, started in 2020 with the aim to reach 1m workers, organic followers increased from c.3,000 to c.10,000. Our most popular worker issue video was seen by 65,000+. We also improved our reach and engagement by c.50% on our YouTube channel, Facebook English page, and Twitter.

We continued with our annual lecture/workshop series at IIMA, APU and LSE to build awareness among future leaders. UNHR invited SII for a presentation on the issue.

Thank you: This annual review will not be complete without expressing our pride for our team, our supporters, our Shramik Saathis and our volunteers. The IIM Ahmedabad batch of 1991 started our funding in 2016 and has supported us through these five years, while many other illustrious supporters, including Azim Premji Foundation, Vikram Lal Foundation, from IIMA92 batch, IIT Roorkee batches of 1988 and 1987 and, Bain & Co. joined us.

We are extremely pleased that the batch of IIMA91 has now again pledged significant support for the next three years and will form the core of our funding, while we look for more HNWI and CSR/Foundations to fund our growth for next five years, building in this foundation.

In the next five years, with your support, we plan to multiply our impact by assisting 25,000+ injured workers, helping them obtain Rs. 100cr+ value of compensation, helping create a real significant reduction in these crush injuries in the Indian auto sector and becoming part of the solutions to improve Indian labour productivity and Indian healthcare and insurance for Indian workers through ESIC. Our team is full of executable ideas, and ready to scale up!

Have a safe and healthy 2022!

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