Wall Street Journal – Ship-Recycling Workers Fear for Their Jobs

(Written by Biman Mukherji and Costas Paris)

14 June 2013 - ALANG, India—The vast scrap yards here on India’s western shore show the stakes from beaching old cargo vessels. Rows of broken-down ships, heavy cranes, clumps of wire and piles of sawed metal sheets line a half-dozen miles of sandy coastline.

“At least this work helps me feed me and my family. If the breaking yard closes down, then we will have nothing,” says Deepak Yadav. The 45-year- old has worked at the yard for two decades. He once was injured by falling debris but returned after a month’s treatment.

Mr. Yadav is among tens of thousands of workers who have left their villages in northern and eastern India to come here in search of employment. Most say they receive rudimentary training at the state-run Gujarat Training Institute before starting work at the yards.

The men—there are few women—accept the hazardous working conditions because of the relatively high pay and the steady employment. Daily wages here are around $6 to $7, including three to four hours of overtime. In rural villages, with no factories, farm workers earn $2 to $3 a day.

“Luckily I have never been injured, but once, a pile of debris fell from a crane right on top of a co-worker,” killing him, says Ajay Mishra, 45. Workers here say that while accidents had been common, the severity and the number of incidents appear to have declined in the past two years.

“Everybody here knows that an injury can happen any time,” says Vindhyachal Chaubey, 35, who traveled more than 1,000 miles from the eastern state of Bihar. “But I am able to save something and send back home by working here.”