Over the last six years, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has put in much effort to woo global manufacturers to set shop in the country. From giving tax incentives to promising lower red tape and even freeing up industrial land “twice the size of Luxembourg,” the Modi government has made the “Make in India” initiative a cornerstone of its policymaking. In 2020, the initiative gained even more momentum as India tried to position itself as an alternative to China amid a growing global scepticism against the country due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But the recent worker unrest at an iPhone factory in the southern Indian state of Karnataka raises doubts over the country’s readiness to pursue this ambition.
On Dec. 12, labour unrest broke out at Apple’s partner Wistron’s factory on the outskirts of Bengaluru when around 2,000 workers vandalised property and looted goods in retaliation against being underpaid and overworked.
Even as the government tries to make this incident seem like “an aberration,” it is far from that. Progress in manufacturing in India has often been tainted by labour law violations, and Apple’s manufacturing partner Wistron is just the latest—and far from the only—culprit.
“For far too long businesses in India, with some notable exceptions, have considered labour as a necessary but troublesome cog in the production machine, and the focus is to squeeze the maximum out of it with minimum pay and benefits while brandishing the threat of job insecurity,” Pranab Barshan, an economics professor at University of California, Berkeley, wrote for Bloomberg Quint.
The curious case of Apple manufacturers
For Apple itself, this isn’t the first red flag in India.
A March 2020 report in The Information detailed the problems the Tim Cook-led company faced while zeroing in on manufacturing partners in the first place:
Many Indian suppliers weren’t able to meet Apple’s environmental, health and safety standards. Apple contractors visited one potential factory in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, only to find that its workers were on strike.
(O)ne Indian supplier Apple approached in 2018 was Superpacks, which operated a packaging factory in Bangalore. Apple sent auditors to assess whether its supplier responsibility practices were up to Apple’s standards. The audits revealed dozens of violations. The site had no safety measures for storing chemicals, lacked monitoring for noise and wastewater, and didn’t have several environmental and construction permits. It didn’t properly test drinking water for workers and the site lacked a fire hydrant system, according to a person close to Apple.
Apple spent months pushing Superpacks to fix the violations. However, the Indian company stopped giving updates and missed deadlines for fixes. Apple ultimately didn’t give it a business contract.
Despite the struggles to find a partner, Apple was almost arm-twisted into committing to local manufacturing. The…
Go to the news source: iPhone factory protest shows flaws with Modi’s Make in India — Quartz India