Time for workers' rights to take centre stage

The glamorous film industry hides an ugly face of apathy and insensitivity towards its own workers. While successful actors, stars and filmmakers go on to gain in fame and prosperity, there is a section within the industry that continues to lead a hand-to-mouth existence, with no job security or assurance that their families will receive compensation in case they get injured or lose their life on set.

Yesterday, this paper reported how a daily wage labourer has been fighting for his dues since he was injured on the set of reality television show Bigg Boss last year. Unable to work since the incident, he can no longer afford to pay rent or his daughter’s school fees. He has been waiting for the show’s producers to cough up compensatory wages amounting to more than Rs 1 lakh.

It is shocking that the industry largely turns a blind eye to the lesser workers of Bollywood, without whom gorgeous sets would not exist and there would be no one to hold up the lights or run around to order Chinese for the heroine’s mummy.

These workers are largely taken for granted. Often, they are made to work without a decent day’s pay and, in most cases, they have to wait longer. Workers have been known to wait for 90 days before a petty salary is paid by the production house and sometimes, they have to make several rounds of the office before the payment is cleared.

Since 2008, the workers’ union has gone on strike repeatedly, in a bid to attract the attention of industry bigwigs, but all they get are empty promises. The workers can’t afford to strike for too long, since no work means letting their families starve.

Here’s hoping that the film and TV industry — which often presents stories about injustice done to others — wakes up to the travails of their own people.

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