Tragedy in the Auto Sector: The Untold Story of Indian Women Losing Fingers

The issue of Indian women in the auto sector losing fingers at work is a significant concern, highlighted in the 5th annual ‘CRUSHED’ report by the Safe In India Foundation (SII). This report, with a special focus on injuries faced by women workers, reveals a worrying trend in the Indian auto industry, a sector that contributes 7.1% to India’s GDP and employs about 3.7 million people.

Key Findings and Data:

  1. Worker Safety and Gender Disparity: The majority of women workers in the Indian auto sector operate under duress, often without adequate training or safety equipment. Women workers in Faridabad, Haryana, highlighted high injury risks, high production pressure, and lower salaries compared to male counterparts​​.
  2. Extent of Injuries: On average, 20 workers lose their hands and/or fingers daily in the Manesar and Gurgaon areas. In 2020 alone, the Indian automobile manufacturing sector recorded 3,882 incidents of injuries, including 1,050 deaths​​.
  3. Accidents on Power Press Machines: About 52% of accidents occur on power press machines. Many workers, including women, operate these machines with inadequate safety provisions, often working 12-hour shifts or longer​​.
  4. Underreporting of Accidents: There is a significant discrepancy between official data and actual injuries. In 2020, SII found over 1,000 workers faced injuries in Haryana, whereas the state-reported number was only 68. The DGFASLI data is often understated, with less than 2.5% of the actual number of injured workers reported in some cases​​​​.
  5. Healthcare and Insurance Issues: More than 60% of workers injured in the auto sector receive their Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) cards only after facing an accident, delaying treatment and other facilities​​. In Haryana and Maharashtra, 68% and 85% of injured workers, respectively, received their ESIC e-Pehchan card post-accidents​​.
  6. Differential Treatment of Women Post-Injury: Women workers often face differential treatment after injuries, including threats of dismissal for advocating new safety methods or asking for social security entitlements​​.
  7. Women Operating Power Presses Under Duress: There is evidence of women being pressured to operate power presses, often for meager additional sums, leading to a significant gender wage gap and increased risk of injuries​​.
  8. Policy and Safety Improvement Measures: Some positive movements include auto sector brands improving work safety policies and increasing audits of suppliers. However, the number of injuries on power press machines without safety sensors is still around 90%​​.
  9. Labor Law Compliance and Working Conditions: In Haryana and Maharashtra, over 80% of workers worked beyond the legal limit of 48 hours a week, indicative of inadequate inspection and monitoring. The new Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code may have provisions that are not beneficial for worker safety​​.

This comprehensive analysis highlights the dire state of worker safety in India’s auto sector, with a particular focus on the plight of women workers. The disparities in treatment, underreporting of accidents, and lack of adequate safety measures call for urgent attention and action from both the industry and the government to safeguard the health and rights of these workers.



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