The website of Nandan Denim clearly states that they provide statutory labour welfare facilities to their employees. Their website says: “This ensures a higher standard of working condition, to make life worth living for the employees. It is a voluntary effort to improve the existing industrial system and the condition of employment in the factory (sic).”
However, on February 8, when a Nandan Denim’s factory in Ahmedabad caught fire, seven workers lost their lives because the building had only one door for the workers to escape from. And, to even reach this door, they had to climb a ladder.
“There were hardly any means of escape from the blaze,” Rajesh Bhatt, a senior fire official at the scene told the Associated Press. Police reportedly found that the Ahmedabad-based factory had violated numerous safety regulations leading to the arrest of the factory’s owner, a manager and fire safety officer.
Local safety and health authorities asked the company to remain closed until further notice. Their licenses have been suspended and Nandan Denim has agreed to pay an ex-gratia compensation of Rs. 10 lakh each to the next of kin of deceased workers and will also provide employment to one family member of each of the deceased workers based on their qualification. As per a report, Vipul Mittra, Additional Chief Secretary, Labour and Employment department has said that the department will review safety parameters before allowing production to resume.
According to the website of Nandan Denim, the company is one of the largest denim suppliers in the world, supplying fabric to big Indian brands like Flying Machine, Gini & Jony, Myntra, Ajio, Pantaloons and Shoppers Stop. International brands like Zara, Target, Polo, and Ralph Lauren also find a mention. However, some of the US and multinational companies listed on the website have said that they were not actually customers, while some issued statements condemning dangerous work sites.
International labor advocates say that apparel companies have the most power — and thus the most responsibility — to ensure their suppliers are maintaining safe and healthy work environments. After the Rana Plaza garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed in 2013, more than 200 apparel companies, including giants like H&M and Zara had signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. The accord set in place legally binding agreements around health and building code inspections, training and independent monitoring committees. It didn’t yield quick results, but nearly seven years on, the accord has fostered the physical transformation of factory buildings in Bangladesh, labor advocates say.
Workers’ rights advocate J.J. Rosenbaum of the Global Labor Justice Project told The Washington Post that basic governmental regulations at the local level are needed — and in most cases exist but are weakly enforced. Cooperation, and ultimately responsibility, she said, is down to brands that benefit from the cost-cutting measures of their suppliers, usually at the expense of worker health, safety and dignity. It is a strategy brands may not want to acknowledge, but one they cannot plausibly deny. “There aren’t many ways to produce a garment more cheaply,” Rosenbaum told the Washington-based daily.
The company has not disclosed losses incurred in the fire yet. With a manufacturing capacity of 110 million metres per annum, Nandan Denim, is associated with the Chiripal Group that has a turnover of Rs. 6,000 crore, according to their annual report.