Labour-intensive Madhya Pradesh Mahila Kalyan Samiti in Govindpura, Bhopal, has had to change its production profile in the face of competition. From being a telecom parts manufacturer, it has switched to bakery jobs.
The unit once fed telecom giant Indian Telephone Industries' growing demand for equipment at its production centres in Bangalore and Naini, besides supplying to Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, Hindustan Machine Tools, and the Indian Railways.
Several non-government organisations are operating in the state. But this organisation, which offers permanent jobs to only women, most of them being from economically weaker sections or handicapped in some way, is struggling to survive.
The organisation employs 575 women. It was inaugurated by Shankar Dayal Sharma in 1975, when he was Union communication minister. Incidentally, it was the International Women's year.
"With changes in technology, telephones are now multipurpose devices, and mobile phones have made things more difficult for us. We now do not receive orders from ITI. Earlier, ITI's fixed-line phones were assembled in our unit," General Manager Agnes D'Souza said.
The Govindpura industrial area is labour-friendly Chief Minister Babulal Gaur's constituency. Gaur had worked in a unit. Despite former Chief Minister Uma Bharti's pro-women stance, this unit did not receive much attention.
"Orders from BHEL and telecom companies used to be prolific when we started. Now with cost cuts and the recession in the market, the situation has changed. We can recruit marketing staff once there are steady orders from private or government organisations. Otherwise, it is difficult for us to offer regular jobs," D'Souza said.
"Stenographers we had outsourced to Bhel, 350 in number, have now taken up other jobs. Besides, with layoffs in Bhel, there are 165 now."
The advent of quartz wrist watches has reduced to nil service orders from HMT. "We had to shift workers to other sections because there was no work in the section making watch parts," said D'Souza.
The unit started with 32 workers, and an assistance of Rs 89,000 from the Central Social Welfare Board. It has produced goods worth Rs 1.50 crore (Rs 15 million) in the current year.
Here, employees vary in age, and now college girls are running its computer-training programmes. It also offers computer diplomas for Rs 5,000 a year and does data-entry jobs for Bhel. But the earnings hardly suffice. The Indian Railways once placed orders for stationery works, but that has stopped.