RTI shocker: Even after two years there’s no information, clarity or responsibility; neither from the women’s commission, nor the labour department, nor DC!
To understand the response of the Government of Karnataka to the provisions of the Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, Garment Labour Union (GLU) requested information regarding the implementation of the anti-sexual harassment committee in workplace, committee formation date, committee membership details and annual report information to the Women’s Commission, Labour Department and the District Collector.
The letters to the Karnataka Women’s Commission were posted on 23 November 2015 for which we got a reply on 2 December 2015 saying they ‘don’t have any information’ about the committees in the factories. We also met the secretary of the Karnataka Women’s Commission Mrs.Kavitha S Mannikeri. She said that the Act has ‘recently come into effect’—as if the time from 2013 to 2015 doesn’t count!—and that they were ‘in the process’ of sending notices to all the factories. According to her, ‘there is no clarification on the line of responsibility regarding monitoring the implementation of the Act, on whether the reporting should be the women’s commission or to the labour department’.
We got a similar response from the labour department too. We sent a similar query on 13 December 2015 under the Right to Information Act 2005 to the district collector. But on 04 January 2016 we got the same reply from the district collector’s office.
According to the Karnataka government’s statistics there are around 8 lakh garment workers in Karnataka, 85% of whom are women. GLU works to organize and support women workers in the readymade garment sector mainly in and around Bangalore. For the last one year we have been focussing our efforts to address sexual harassment at the workplace. With over 5 lakh women working in this sector in Bangalore alone, sexual harassment is an important issue to be addressed.
GLU will be participating in a program in Bijapur on March 2016 to forge links with other similar minded groups from across the state. On 11 March 2016 GLU will be celebrating women’s day in front of our office located in Laggere, close to Peenya Industrial Estate, the location of many garment factories.
8 March is a particularly important day for women working in the textile industry. On 8 March 1908 women workers of a needle manufacturing industry in Chicago protested for safe working environment and suitable wages. In 1911 in New York, 140 women textile workers died in a fire accident in the factory. Many voices came out strongly against the accident. International women’s day was celebrated on 8 March 1911 for the first time as a meaningful commemoration, calling attention to the struggles of women workers, particularly those in the readymade garment factories, and spinning mills.
Everyone—from the Women’s Commission to the Women and Child Welfare department, several government offices, political parties—are preparing to celebrate Women’s Day. They don’t seem to concerned about the delay in the implementation of the Act, that makes them directly responsible for endangering the life and dignity of lakhs of working women in Karnataka. We call the attention of the government and all concerned on lapses in following up such an important provision of the law and their duty to support all efforts for women to work with dignity and security.
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