Mundka fire in Delhi: these women are risking everything for next to nothing | Delhi News

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NEW DELHI: After her husband’s death in 2010, 60-year-old Kiran Devi started working in a shoe factory in Mundka for Rs 6,000 a month. His salary reached Rs 8,000 with overtime, but it was barely enough to pay the rent and meet other expenses.

This is not just Kiran’s story, but also that of other women who make up a significant portion of the workforce in factories in Mundka and surrounding areas. However, they are paid a meager sum despite working more than eight hours a day.
Kiran lives with his brother in a small room in Bhagya Vihar. Apart from her rent of Rs 2,000, she also sends money to her 18-year-old relative in Bihar for her studies. “I can’t think of saving up. We kind of feed each other. Sometimes I drink a lot of water, which reduces hunger. My brother also contributes to the rent,” the elderly woman said, adding that at that age it was difficult to work overtime.
Similarly, Meena Devi earns Rs 6,500 in an iron utensil factory in Rajdhani Park. The 66-year-old woman’s hands show several marks of injury, but she continues to work to feed her family. “The cut marks on my hand are from iron utensils, but I can’t do anything. If I regularly work overtime for four hours, then I get Rs 8,000,” she said. Meena lives with her son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter. Two years ago, she lost her husband. After that, she and her son started working in two factories.
Sunita does not want her four children to live the life she and her husband lead. The 35-year-old works in a shoe factory on the outskirts of Delhi. “My husband and I together earn Rs 12,000 per month and somehow feed our family. I don’t want to hinder my children’s studies so that they can build a better life for themselves. My husband does not couldn’t earn much, so I started working,” she said.
Sanjeeta (35) lives with her three children aged 16, 10 and 13. For 3-4 years she has been working in a steelworks. “I earn Rs 11,000 after working an eight hour shift per day. After my husband died, I went to my hometown in Bihar. We moved back to Delhi 3-4 years ago and started working in a factory to educate my children,” she said.
During the pandemic-induced lockdown, factories were closed and these women had no money to buy food. They used to leave the house in the morning to get food distributed by the Good Samaritans. An increase in food prices has also affected their budget. “Even an increase in Re 1 affects us badly,” Sanjeeta said.
With garbage strewn everywhere, dusty roads and an inadequate sewage system, the situation in Bhagya Vihar is difficult. More than 300 women working in Mundka’s factories live in small settlement houses made of oddly laid bricks or with asbestos roofs.
The daughters of Yashoda Devi, a woman who died in the Mundka fire, said their mother worked overtime to fund their education and marriage.
“My mother had worked at the factory for three years. She earned between 7,000 and 7,500 rupees with no fixed working hours. She took pains to make sure her children focused on their studies,” said Rinki, Yashoda’s eldest daughter. A few months ago, she had built a pucca house for her children after taking out a loan.
A few meters from Yashoda’s house, Meera Devi was seen crying outside her home. Her daughter Kavita consoled her for her missing eldest daughter, Nisha Kumari. Another factory worker had informed them of the fire. Nisha was the sole breadwinner in the family of seven, who live in two small rooms with an asbestos roof. Family members were still looking for Nisha in different hospitals.
For female workers, another major problem is that their jobs are not permanent. If companies have less or no work, they don’t pay. There are virtually no safety measures in place at their factories. The Mundka incident scared the women, but they have no choice but to keep working to make ends meet.

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