AMSTERDAM – India needs major new measures to tackle safety in its garment and textile industries, according to the Clean Clothes Campaign. In the wake of the recent Nandam Denin factory fire which killed seven workers, the NGO said: “Without a credible, transparent, legally binding safety programme that allows for inspection, remediation, training and a complaint mechanism, tragedies like those of this month and December are likely to recur.”
Added the statement: “Nandan Denim was clearly no hidden factory far away from the purview of international companies or auditing firms. The fact that even such a large, internationally producing factory can turn out to maintain units that are obvious death traps is a bad sign for the safety of the many subcontracting and local producers in the country.
“Media reported that there was only one exit, accessible by a ladder, and that there was no alarm system. After an earlier fire in Delhi in December which killed over 40 workers, and at least ten other fires and major accidents in the direct vicinity of the factory in the last year alone, this once more shows that structural measures to address fire safety in the Indian garment industry are direly needed.
“It is a question of great concern how apparent safety violations in such a major factory have gone under the radar of government institutions and international brands. This means that the supply chain monitoring systems of the major companies sourcing from this factory, usually carried out through commercial auditing firms, have all failed to either detect or remediate the lack of sufficient and safe exits and other safety measures in the factory.”
Ashim Roy, president of the Mill Mazdoor Panchayat Union (MMP) in Gujarat added: “The Nandan Denim fire shows the gross failure of regulation in this massive denim hub production for global brands. Labour, fire and safety, and building codes have all been violated. Global brands are equally responsible for the safety of their supply chains and for the compensation of the affected workers in the factory.”
Meanwhile Asia Floor Wage questioned reports about the number of workers said to be working in the factory. In a statement, it said: “The reported figures of 50-60 workers working in the factory is an under-estimate because it appears to only include permanent workers on payroll. Other workers working in the factory, have reported that this particular department where the fire took place, employed at least 150 workers. The under-count is s result of the fact that most of the workers are contract labour, who have not been provided with factory identification, so as to make them invisible to the eyes of the law.
“This global denim sourcing hub has reported accidents and fires repeatedly including more than ten major fire and accidents in the past year itself. There has been absolute regulatory failure in factory and labour inspection, building codes and standards, and fire and safety systems. The failure of fire and safety system is evident from the Chief Fire Officer, F. Dastur, admitting that inadequate inspection system has led to more than 10,000 units to be without fire and safety license – Nandan Denim factory is one of them.
“A visual inspection of the Nandan Denim building shows absence of features such as ventilation, fire and safety system, including alarm system. It has been reported that there was only one entrance and exit which could be accessed through a ladder which is clearly highly inadequate for evacuation in case of fire. It has been reported that workers working inside the room in the factory, continued to work, even after the fire had started and were burnt because there was no adequate alarm system to trigger evacuation.
“The audit system of the several sourcing global brands have failed to detect large scale violation of fire, safety, building codes and labour rights in this denim hub.”