Labor

Jute Mill Strife in India Preys Harshly on Wives

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The wives and a sister of jute mill workers who are demanding employee benefits have paid the price as the men were imprisoned and became fugitives. Though the men have returned, pressures remain acute.

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Temporary Victory

"But I knew that things would not remain rosy," sighs Khatun.

After a few months the retirement payments stopped and the battle began again. In January 2011, mill managers lodged complaints of attempted murder by a number of the workers against one of their representatives.

"Our husbands had no choice but to abscond," says Singh. "They became fugitives from the law. Despite help from other workers, our children often went to bed hungry."

For the wives and sisters it was another round of hardship. Khatun was pregnant and in a critical stage. Singh's eldest son, around 10, took to petty crime. Shaw was resigned to a life of drudgery with her mother taking to her bed and the burden of the family falling entirely on her.

The situation has barely improved since then. The men have returned and are out on bail and have good lawyers, but the financial pressures remain acute.

Singh's children still do not go to school.

Khatun's newborn daughter is an underweight baby, in and out of hospital.

"The worst part," she says, "is the constant fear that our men may get falsely convicted and be thrown into prison again, never to come out."

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This article is adapted from one that was released by the Women's Feature Service. For more articles on women's issues log on to: http://www.wfsnews.org.

Sharmistha Choudhury is a Kolkata-based journalist who specializes in gender and development issues.

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