My comments on a mailing list when a friend said that we can take a 20% hit on the GDP but stop this short.
It is not that easy, my friend. If only it was a question of 20% less GDP. When you at or below poverty level on the family group, each member's contribution is vital for the sustenance of the entire family. When you are asking that family member's contribution to the family kitty to be stopped, you are immediately condemning them to starvation.
It is very easy to forget that. Take the example of Amitosh who was filmed sewing the beads on the t-shirt. He is removed from employment. He would be earning about 20 rupees (if lucky) per day. That is now lost to him and his family. Where are those 20 rupees for him going to come from? Do you think his father or mother's salary will go up proportionately? No. He will most probably be beaten by his father to an inch of his life for losing his job and which further means that their food rations will be cut and most probably head into starvation levels.
You can forget about ration cards, they are most probably immigrants from Bihar or some other place and do not have sufficient bribe money to get a ration card. He will not go to school either as they cannot afford even the basics of food, forget books, clothing and stationery. The rural employment welfare scheme will not apply in Delhi either.
I read the statements of CRY. Yes, pragmatism rules, what else do you expect? I would like to have heard the director's thoughts to move from those principles to that boy who is now heading for starvation and what does he propose to be done TODAY, rather than over the next 2 years. Forget about today, he has been out of work, out of school, and out of a living calorific diet level for the past 7 days. What are the physical steps that will help Amitosh today? Nothing.
This is a flash in the pan, people will walk away in 2 days after expressing shock, thinking about GAP and again go purchase a cheap t-shirt at Wall Mart. People forget that when such a huge population is at poverty levels, education and employment have to go together. Banning child labour is not the solution at this stage of the country's development, the law of unintended consequences will strike hard.
A wake up call --- By Ila Hukku, Honorary Director, CRY America.
A company like GAP Inc. cares enough to have a 'Code of Vendor Conduct' that
strictly prohibits their vendors from employing child labor. In a recent
statement issued by the President of Gap North America, the company said
that they had terminated their relationship with the Indian subcontractor
accused of using child labor to make a particular product for GapKids, and
have prevented the product from being sold in stores. This is a message that
must be commended. It's writing on the wall of sorts for all Indians, a call
we need to wake up to. A time to question ourselves on how we uphold every
child's right in India and do we let India grow as a global player at the
cost of childhoods lost in labor.
Just a year ago, the Indian Ministry of Labor issued a notification banning
children below 14 years from working in residences and the hospitality
sector, for after agriculture these areas are the largest employers of child
labor. It was assumed that this ban would put an end to some of the most
insidious forms of child labor. Yet, reports in the media and real-life
experience point otherwise.
Even within the notification's limited ambit, there are loopholes: The
prohibition is restricted to working as domestic help, and in hotels, dhabas
(small restaurants) and other recreation centers. It is not clear whether
this applies to the household manufacturing sector, where a vast number of
children are employed in similar working conditions.
The conviction rate for the already existing Indian Child Labor (Prohibition
Regulation) Act, 1986 is abysmally low -- so low, that it is hardly a
deterrent for employers. Without strengthening both enforcement mechanisms
and provisions for rehabilitation, this step has little meaning. Most
importantly, it totally ignores children's rights to a safe and facilitating
environment for development, including health, nutrition, education and
Why this effort is a complete non starter is because it fails to address the
reasons why children have to work instead of going to school. Even if the
current legislation is rigorously enforced, even if rehabilitation processes
are perfect, the supply chain of cheap child labor in India will always be
available. It can only be eradicated if its root causes are also addressed -
causes like social and economic marginalization, poverty, displacement,
migration, lack of a coherent policy towards quality education for all
etc.-- -- situations that force children into work. Piecemeal efforts will
The Karachi Resolution adopted by the Indian National Congress in 1931,
envisioned that post-Independence Indian children would "be protected (from
economic exploitation)". Yet, close to 60 years after Independence and over
a decade after India became a signatory to the United Nations Convention on
Child Rights, children continue to be the most neglected segment. Statistics
reveal that India has 16.57 million child laborers -- the highest in the
world. And this number does not include the millions of children who are
enrolled in schools and also work long hours. Lack of commitment to the
basic rights of a child and low awareness of the few legislations that do
exist, have led to easy violation of laws meant to protect and empower
children. In houses, on the streets and in sweatshops, children are being
exploited by the thousands.
Children work mainly to help their families because the adults do not have
appropriate employment and adequate income. These children are deprived of
education and opportunities to play and rest. Children also work because
there is a demand for cheap labor in the market. Poor and bonded families,
succumbing to the demand, often "sell" their children to contractors who
promise lucrative jobs in the cities and the children end up being sexually
exploited, employed in brothels, hotels and domestic work. Many run away and
find a life on the streets.
In 2006, the International Labor Organization's (ILO) report on child labor
had some good news. Globally it reported a decline of 11 percent in the
incidences of child labor with a thumbs up for countries in Latin America
and the Caribbean and a thumbs down for countries in South Asia and
sub-Saharan Africa. What appears increasingly apparent is that actualizing
the right to education is the single most effective tool to end child labor.
Apologists for child labor talk of resource limitations, logistics of
enforcement, even the merits, in a poor country, of children "learning a
trade". Pragmatism is deployed to argue against legislation. Lack of
legislation is used to justify continued exploitation. The reality is that
poorer countries, and poorer states within India, who have chosen to believe
otherwise, have made more progress than India collectively has. As
individuals and as a society we have chosen apathy and inertia over our
collective responsibility to our children.
The consequences are blindingly obvious. Depriving half our children of the
education that is their legal entitlement perpetuates and exacerbates
injustice and eliminates the possibility of either social harmony or
long-term prosperity for India as a nation. We cannot escape the conclusion
that ensuring every child receives quality education should be our foremost
national priority regardless of whether our concerns are economic, social,
governance-related or ethical.
What will it take? Stripped of jargon and platitudes, the answer is,
political will. Applying to this agenda the same relentless, focused
approach that the powerful sections of our country have chosen to strive
towards double digit GDP growth. And accepting that this needs to be done
even at the cost of the much vaunted double digit GDP growth. Send an
unambiguous message that we are no longer willing to tolerate inertia,
tokenism or sanctimonious verbiage as substitutes for concerted policy
change backed up by budgetary allocations and accountable implementation.
At one level, the child is being deprived of good education and leisure
time, at another, s/he is being granted the 'freedom' of choice' - but
within truly undesirable alternatives. Is the choice really there? Are our
children truly free?
We at CRY America believe that no child should have to work and that India
needs an unambiguous Minimum Age Act which prescribes the minimum age of
employment. Though this will not mean that the problem of child labor will
disappear - but at least this will fill the gap in legislation that
employers exploit. Most importantly, it will ensure that the debate shifts
from 'whether to eliminate child labor' to 'how to eliminate child labor'.
Child Rights and You America Inc. (CRY America), is a non-profit that works
to restore basic rights to underprivileged children, especially Indian. To
know more, please visit www.america.cry.org or contact Steshia at
BUSINESS: Gap Clothing Chain Withdraws Garments Made Using Indian Child
A GUEST POST BY ANUP KAPHLE, graduate student, Columbia Journalism School.
guest bloggers welcome: arunvenu[at]gmail.com
American clothing chain Gap has announced that it would withdraw clothes
using forced child labor in India. The announcement came after the
of an investigative article by Dan McDougall in the UK-based Observer.
The Observer article starts:
>>> Amitosh concentrates as he pulls the loops of thread through tiny
plastic beads and sequins on the toddler's blouse he is making. Dripping
sweat, his hair is thinly coated in dust. In Hindi his name means
The hand-embroidered garment on which his tiny needle is working bears the
distinctive logo of international fashion chain Gap. Amitosh is 10.<<<
The article, written after an undercover investigation, includes quotes from
very young Indian children who talk about how they got into the business and
how they are treated. The article also quotes the U.N. saying that child
contributes an estimated 20 per cent of India's gross national product.
According to a BBC article, although Gap has claimed that only one item - a
girl's smock blouse - was made using child labor it has announced that this
particular blouse will now not be available in Gap's 3,000 stores around the
world. Gap plans to destroy those blouses instead. The BBC quoted Gap's
>>> Dan Henkle, a spokesman for Gap, said: "We were made aware earlier
this week that a reporter had found an incident of children working in a
factory that was producing for one of our brands, and this is completely
unacceptable to us. We have a strict prohibition on child labour, and we are
taking this very seriously. This is very upsetting and we intend to
More from the FAQ section of Gap's corporate website, on child labor
Do you work with factories that use child labor?
Answer: We do not tolerate child labor. It's one of the most serious
violations of our Code of Vendor Conduct. To gain and keep our business,
vendors must commit to employing factory workers who meet the minimum legal
requirement in that country or the minimum age in our Code, whichever is
higher. We are very strict about enforcing this policy.
In the rare instances in which we do find an underage worker, we
that the worker be removed from the factory immediately, given access to
schooling, paid an ongoing wage, and guaranteed a job at the factory as soon
he/she reaches the legal minimum working age.
Links to the items above, including McDougall's Observer article - "Child
sweatshop shame threatens Gap's ethical image" - available at
Post your comments there, too (several comments there already).
[Here's another major story by Dan MacDougall from Aug. 2007 that got a lot
attention: PARTITION: 60 Years Later, The Refugees at the Other Border -
CHILD LABOR: Rugmark's India Carpet Work
Reading about Gap Inc's decision to withdraw clothes made with Indian child
labor reminded me of an item we shared with the SAJA network in April 2006 -
long before SAJAforum existed. It's about the effort to fight child labor in
Indian-made carpets through the efforts of the Rugmark nonprofit
I am reposting the item below, so you can see some of the contacts - they
be useful for those of you interested in this topic. Please note this is
18 months ago, so some of the contacts may have changed.
Read that post at http://www.sajaforum.org/2007/10/child-labor-rug.html