Times of India, New Delhi.
Monday, July 13, 1992,
labour laws only on paper'
DELHI: Most laws on child labour are merely on paper. Implementation
is almost nil, regrets the former Chief Justice of India, Mr.
P.N. Bhagwati. Inaugurating the First South Asian Consultation
on carpet child labour here yesterday, Mr. Bhagwati said,
"we already have enough legislation on child labour".
"It is high time the governments of the day ensure child labour
in the carpet industry is completely eliminated". The three-day
meet is organised by the Committee for Eradication of child Labour
in Carpet Industry and Asian culture forum on Development.
need to build public opinion against this form of child labour
he stresses. It is a great tragedy that governments do not realise
the inhumanity they are perpetrating, he says. These children
lead a helpless and hopeless life, with lost eyesight and sunken
cheeks. Hunger has taken away life from them, he notes. The law
prohibits any child below 14 years to work. But is it enforced?The
subject is heart-rending. It breaks one's heart to see these children
forced to work for 14 to 20 hours a day, notes Mr. Bhagwati.
dare not protest. They are not allowed to move, not even
to case themselves". And these are future citizens of
our country, Don't they have the same aspirations as others?
Have they no right to partake of the fruits of freedom and
liberty? Has society given anything to them.? he asks. They
should be given full opportunity for the development of
their potential, the former Chief Justice advocates.
NEED FOR FOREIGN HELP: Mr. Bhagwati welcomes the participation
of Nepal and Pakistan with India in the Consultation meet.
"If concerted action is taken in these three countries,
a combined public opinion can be created. One country then
cannot say the other is not doing it," he adds. Plus we
do not need foreign assistance to fight this form of child
an optimistic note, he says " I am sure we'll be able to
eradicate child labour, once public opinion is mobilised.
If we could remove the British from our roll, why not this?"
director, Anti-slavery International, London, Ms Lesley Robberts,
says the problem of child labour in South Asia could take
their entire time. "No legislation can help, only changes in
attitude can, "she notes,. She says "We still await the UN's plan
for a seminar on bonded labour, since 1990."
should be an awareness campaign against child-woven carpets, she
notes. Importers of carpets should be the target. A label on carpets
saying it was made without child labour will have wide impact
on consumers, she notes. In some European countries, people look
for labels certifying the buying has been from responsible producers
and suppliers - those who provide fair remuneration and conditions
of employment, including employees' right to organise and paying
a fair price.
LAKH KIDS: Today, there are three lakh children employed in the
carpet trade, notes Swami Agnivesh, president of Bandhua Mukti
Morcha. We have a responsibility towards them. In 1984, the
government accepted there was child labour but whether it was
bonded labour was a legal question, it said, he regrets. These
children are from the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and backward
classes. But if they were children of ministers or officers or
even the upper caste only then there would be an uproar, he said.
are five and a half crore children in servitude putting in 10
hours work in our country. "If our children were vote banks, politicians
would have done something about them. Today no one fights for
Agnivesh hits out at Doordarshan and all India Radio. How much
of time do these two devote to these children? The former can
show Wimbledon for hours even when there is no play. But for these
children what does it do? It is a sick society, notes Agnivesh.
calling for a boycott of Indian carpets. "We only say buy carpets
but demand a label that it is not produced by children. We must
strive towards producers using such labels, genuine ones. This
is possible," he adds.
Pakistan and Nepal are among the largest producers and exporters
of hand-knotted carpets, roughly two-thirds of the total world
market, says Mr. Kailash Satyarthi convenor of the consultation.