Mumbai: The ‘Women of Big Bazaar SOS (save our Sustenance)’, the composite group of women who work for Future Group, today came together and appealed most ardently and in a very impassioned manner to the Honourable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, for help and succour in saving their tragically threatened jobs. Today, on the occasion of Women’s day, the plight of this group assumes a very critical dimension. The group represent more than 2.1 lakh women 10,000 women direct employees and another two lakh women indirectly earning their livelihoods through working or supplying products to Future Group brands such as Big Bazaar, and associated retail chains of Future Group such as fbb, Central, Brand Factory, Easy Day, Heritage City, WH Smith, and 7-Eleven, etc. A total of 2,677 women working at various positions and from cities as far afield as Sri Ganganagar in Rajasthan to Dimapur in Assam, petitioned the PM to intervene urgently and save their livelihoods and the lives of their families from certain ruin in the wake of the ongoing crisis precipitated by Amazon.
According to the group’s appeal letter, “Future Retail and Reliance had entered into an arrangement through which Future’s retail stores will continue to be operated by Reliance. Reliance has also committed to clear all debts and dues owed by Future Retail to suppliers and vendors. Since we had been facing tough times during the pandemic, this deal provided us with a lot of hope and confidence for our continued livelihoods. However, Amazon, the global American giant, has tried to stop this tie-up and consequently our future and that of our families hangs precariously.”
The letter states to the PM that “India’s daughters continue to live in fear and under the looming threat of cruel uncertainty to our livelihoods and lives. We are writing to you with hope and for your urgent help. In most cases, we are the sole earning members of our families. As sales associates, customer care executives, housekeeping and security staff, job workers in garment factories and sellers of food products, Big Bazaar and other retail chains have greatly helped us women to take care of our loved ones, small children, aged parents, and also our extended family groups.”
The appeal further goes on to underscore the point that due to the fact that these women are so tied to their families, leaving the towns where they currently reside is not at all an option. These women have no choice but to continue to live here where they are, even if they stop earning or lose their sources of current livelihood. This is the trauma and sheer helplessness that these employees are experiencing today. According to the letter, “Without our jobs and sources of income, we would be left at the mercy of the cruel world. We shall all suffer deeply, and our families will undergo untold and unimaginable hardships. Just to think of this, shatters our hearts.”
The ‘Women of Big Bazaar’ represent women from many hundreds of towns from all parts of India. They are present in towns such as Silchar, Gangtok, Agartala, Gaya, Asansol, Jharsuguda in the East to Bharuch, Latur, Kota and Bardez in the West. From Ambala, Baddi, Kota, Jammu in the North to Davangere, Kasargod, Tirupur and Vijaywada in the South. In the wake of the Amazon-Reliance face-off for control over India’s retail, the Future Group’s vast and vibrant service and socio-economic ecosystem are under severe duress. For women, retail offers the unique advantage of it being the only industry where they are readily employed in blue-collar jobs particularly in smaller towns and cities across the country.
Today, at 20 per cent, according to the World Bank 2020 report, women participation in the Indian workforce is still low. However, this number can be significantly boosted by increasing and expanding opportunities for women employment in non-metro cities.
The appeal underscored to PM Modi his belief in the philosophy and mission of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’. The members entreated the PM “to extend to us a little support so that we may live with dignity and be able to provide succour to our families.” The group’s members are convinced that if the contentious Amazon interference in the FG-Reliance deal is permitted to proceed, the most severely hit will be these small-town retail women employees and those women of the extended support ecosystem set-ups where the impact of the impediment will be far greater and deeper than can be imagined.