Workers Losing Fingers, Hands and Lives for Auto Makers’ Profits

January 29, 2022 0 By Yatharth

M Aseem

Many people admire the ‘fast and furious’ new models of cars on the road. But do we know the bloodied reality of how these are manufactured? Around three-fourth of the auto-sector workers who sustained injuries over the past five years have lost two fingers on an average to crush injuries, according to a Safe In India (SII) Foundation annual report based on the data of around 2,500 workers who suffered non-fatal injuries in factories in Faridabad-Gurugram-Neemrana auto belt.

Almost 80% of them were employed in the supply chains of some of the largest auto-sector brands. Maruti-Suzuki, Hero, Honda suppliers remain largest contributors to accidents in Gurugram (93%) and Faridabad (75%), as per the report with Bajaj, Eicher, JCB, Tata Motors, TVS, Yamaha suppliers also significant contributors in Gurugram, Faridabad, Rudrapur and Neemrana. Almost one-fifth of the member companies of the Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India also reported accidents stressing the fact that the problem was not confined to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, the report claimed.

Titled as “Crushed 2021”, the report, the third in a series on the state of auto sector workers safety in India, claimed that over 50% of the injuries reported to the SII occurred on power press machines with 2.04 fingers lost on an average and many losing whole hands. “A majority of the workers injured on power presses are inadequately trained and have low education levels. Young and old workers lose fingers equally on power presses. A majority of the crush injuries were on power presses that should have had safety sensors but did not. Most factories violate many extant regulations; potential criminal offences,” said the report released during a two-hour-long online event on Wednesday.

More than 100 auto workers who suffered the injuries also joined the event from 11 locations in Gurugram and Faridabad to share their experiences. They claimed the safety measures were bypassed by the companies to ensure increased production and they were not provided any safety gears such as ear plugs and helmets, except during the audit inspections. Most of them said that they were not given any formal training in running the machines and had learnt it from their seniors.

The proportion of workers with severe injuries — loss of body parts and bone fractures — has not reduced in the past five years indicating continuing underlying dangerous working conditions, said the report. Quoting the report, Sandeep Sachdeva, Co-founder and CEO, SII, said the lower the salary and the education, the worse was the injury received. As many as 92% of those injured were migrants, 81% educated only up to grade 10 and 71% earned less than ₹10,000 a month with no overtime pay for many despite a 12-hour shift, said Mr. Sachdeva.

The injured workers had not received their ESIC e-Pehchaan Card on the day of joining their jobs, as the ESIC regulations require. Interestingly, all these injured workers did receive their Card a few days after the accident. The report said the government data had grossly under-reported factory injuries, inspections had come down and the new Labour Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code might make matters worse.

However, the report fails to mention the most important part that it is not only the lack of training for workers and absence of safety measures but also the highly quickened pace of work that the very design of the production system and management force upon the workers is the main cause of these ‘accidents’. The capitalists want workers to produce more in the same working day because that increases the rate of exploitation of the workers and extracts more surplus value which is the source of all profits and accumulated wealth of the capitalist class. That is why all big and profitable companies can be seen in this list where workers’ fingers, hands and lives are being sacrificed on the ‘pious’ altar of capitalist profits. They do not worry about workers since they are confident that capitalism has already created a large reserve army of unemployed workers who are waiting in queue to join the murderous assembly lines as replacement as soon as some worker becomes incapacitated in these ‘accidents’.

Hence these are not really accidents but crimes by the capitalist owners. Moreover, these ‘big and reputable’ multinational and domestic brands hide these crimes behind the façade of supply chains which actually are designed and operated per their requirements and standards. But these big corporates and media controlled by them propagate as if it is only the small capitalists who commit these crimes. But the reality is that the main responsibility lies with the largest monopoly capitalists who also get the lion’s share of the profits out of these crimes.