From her two-room concrete home nestled among the lush coconut plantations of Erode in Tamil Nadu, housewife Kavita has seen the region's textile industry flourish for a decade, thanks to the labour of poor, lower caste women like herself.
Promising a better life, "agents" have for years visited these poor, rural parts of Tamil Nadu and taken a steady stream of girls and women to work in thousands of cotton spinning mills, part of a textile and clothing industry that is one of India's biggest employers and a major exporter.
The image of women from remote hamlets going to work, staying in hostels and earning money spinning cotton as part of a booming global garment supply chain, should be empowering in a country like India, an emerging power still plagued by poverty and male domination.
But former workers in Tamil Nadu's Erode district describe a system of exploitation and bonded labour that has cast a dark shadow over India's long-established textile industry.
"I tell all the women I meet not to go and work in the mills. I know what the agents promise and what is real. It is not the same," said 23-year-old Kavita, dressed in a lime sari, a crimson flower in her long black plait, sitting on a woven mat in her village home.
"For almost a year, I wasn't allowed to leave the compound where the hostel and mill was. They made me work double shifts. I only got out because I lied and said my aunt had died and I had to attend the funeral. I never went back."
Text: Nita Bhalla, Reuters
Image Courtesy: Wikimedia