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Of Masks, Food, ESIC, Migration and 12 hour shifts! (Week 7&8 Update from Safe in India-Manzil)

Updated: May 26, 2020

Dear friends and supporters,

Here is our report for weeks 7 & 8 of our COVID19 relief initiative, since re-purposing Safe in India and Manzil.

1. Deserted buildings in Manesar; we go further remote to assist migrant workers: We have all seen the mass migrations. In Manesar, in some industrial pockets, once overly-crowded buildings now lie deserted; Our rapid survey last week shows average c.22% migration of worker population to back home (that is lakhs of workers just from Gurgaon).

We have therefore been reaching out to further remote parts of Bawal, Manesar, Kasan, Naharpur and Koh. Overall, we distributed another 36,000 daily rations (Adult Units). We refused distributing rations in some areas, where a few folks in the local administration wanted us to supply to the not-needy vested interests. We are now working with two other Sarpanches, where we find greater need.

2. Accelerated distribution of masks to 7000+: As lock-down eases and people move around in these densely populated areas, we will continue to accelerate mask distribution, to at least help flatten the infection curve. Our conviction that everyone needed and needs masks is now also supported by a number of scientists. Our good quality cotton masks, with expected age of 3-6 months, are made by currently unemployed c.50 women for a partner social enterprise, Society Maker. We have received good feedback for their masks' comfort and wearability, which is critical for safety PPE (Personal Protective equipment) usage, especially in rising temperatures. We hope to replace the cheap paper masks, meant to be disposable (environment-unfriendly) but are being over-used.

3. Help migrants get back home, if they want: On 13th March 2020, we had arranged buses to move migrant workers from Manesar in the following week but we had not expected lock down starting immediately on that Monday. We still think that those who want to go back home should be allowed and assisted. Last week, we participated, in a very small way, to help 23 Assamese workers get home from Kurukshetra, Haryana, an initiative supported fabulously by Tripti Poddar. Thankfully, Haryana is now arranging buses for UP migrants but not for migrants from Bihar. So, we are now going to try pushing for them. We are also in discussions with Jharkhand admin to support their migrants if possible.

In our last week’s survey, we found that another 14% of those still in Manesar want to get back home. We have therefore joined a petition to the PMO, co-ordinated by our esteemed partner, Aajeevika Bureau, requesting the use of central forces to manage a disciplined and dignified return of these migrants. Please join us in this petition to the PMO.

4. What’s the point of government schemes like the new ESIC COVID19 relief measures, if workers don’t know about them in time? Please share the below with those who run establishments of more than 10 paid employees and should provide ESIC cover to all their workers and inform them of these relief measures.

Our rapid survey report of 96 ESIC registered, mainly auto-sector supply chain workers, is now published. Please read our opinion piece in the media coverage here. Highlights:

  • 78% did not know that they could buy medicines from private pharmacies and reimburse later. So of the 11% who fell sick during lock-down, 6% bought medicines from own money (Rs 40-6000 per family) but did not keep the bills. That’s crores of Rupees they will lose (and ESIC will save).

  • 77% did not know that they can now go to partner hospitals if they can’t use ESIC Hospitals.

  • 94% did not know that ESIC has extended insurance premium payments for their employers until Jun20.

  • 87% of surveyed workers received no pro-active communication from ESIC regarding COVID19.

  • 78% did not call the ESIC helpline as they did not think of it, did not know the numbers or could not call. And among the 22% who did call, more than half (55%) were not satisfied.

5. Do we really want 12 hour shifts, six days a week, become legal? We have assisted hundreds of workers injured, in the auto-sector supply chain factories, during ‘overtime’; exhausted working unduly long hours, very often with less than legally-required breaks and poor working conditions. Our data collected from 150+ workers shows:

  • 42% workers work in 12-hours shifts, six days a week.

  • Another 14% workers 'believe' that their shift timings are from 8.5 hours to 10 hours per day, but when we ask their work entry and exit times, they seem to work 11 hours to 15 hours.

  • All of them reported that the additional 3-4 hours (beyond the stipulated 8-hour shift) were paid at ordinary rate of wages and not twice the ordinary rate of wages as stipulated by law (section 59 of Factories Act) for overtime.

  • Only 39% reported external audit, by buyers or government bodies, in their factories (even after our Accident Prevention Report “Crushed”, shared and pursued with OEMs -Maruti, Hero and Honda - and the local government. Maruti-Suzuki has thankfully engaged the best with the issue until now; not so Hero and Honda).

  • There were also cases of workers meeting accidents while working 2 shifts continuously and a few not leaving the factory for 24 hours.

Legalising 12 hour shifts is a licence to maim more workers and pay even less. We have written to CM Haryana to reverse this decision as indeed many labour activists and labour unions have done to the Centre and hopefully states. We will keep at it!

6. Welcome new support for our COVID19 relief initiative: We are delighted that in the past two weeks, we have found new welcome support, in addition to so many of you including alumni of IIMA91, IIMA92, IITR88, and IITR87. We can now count Azim Premji Philanthropic Foundation, Great Eastern Shipping and Bain Consulting as our new funding partners. They have been amazing at their prompt response and quick action. Thank you!

We welcome your comments and suggestions at

Stay healthy. Stay safe.

Team Safe in India


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