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Indian garment sector to adopt zero child labour policy
Dec '11
After being censured by some international apparel brands, Indian garment export industry is about to adopt zero tolerance towards child labour in its entire supply and value chains. For the purpose, besides extensive auditing of the supply chain, projects are also being carried out to increase the compliance of international standards by garment manufacturers.

Briefing about the child labour concerns to fibre2fashion, Mrs. Chandrima Chatterjee, Director (Compliance and Economic & Consultancy), Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC), said, “The child labour concerns in the Indian garment industry have originated from various countries, especially the US.”

“Pertaining to child labour, we conduct an annual assessment of the country's work conditions with specific regard to child labour, forced labour and indentured labour. The US generates two such lists every year, called the executive order list and the PVPRA list, after reviewing every country's prevalent child labour. India has come under these lists in 2010-11 and this has increased our concern for child labour in the industry,” she adds.

Explaining the current child labour situation, she says, “After many discussions with the US Department of Labor, we come to understand that the presence of child labour is at the home-worker level and not at the direct factory unit. Now, this is a very grey area for everybody to manage because monitoring the home-worker group is very difficult.”

“The compliance level of garment exporters is very high because in the international market it is a buyer's mandatory requirement to have an audit. The child labour issue is one of the very important aspect that the audit checks. So by default, it is made sure that all the export units are highly compliant. The only thing that worsens the situation is that India has a lot of value-added exports which have embellishments and hand work, so the garment goes out of the factory to the home worker,” narrates Mrs. Chatterjee.

Mr. Coen Kompier, senior specialist on international labour standards at International Labour Organisation (ILO) agrees, “At the manufacturers and exporters level there is very less or no child labour, but child labour is present down the production chain, especially home based work, mainly minorities and dalits. If we go lower down the production chain, like cotton seed pollination, both in Andhra Pradesh and in Gujarat, there are around 400,000 tribal girls of around 14 years of age employed for the work.”

Informing about various efforts being made to address the issue, Mrs. Chatterjee says, “The Ministry of Labour is working extensively and many legislations have come in the last two years. Until now, child labour was permitted in certain segments which were not considered hazardous, but now the Government is trying to even remove that grey area. The Ministry of Labour has even mooted to have a blanket ban on child labour.”

“The Right to Education Act has greatly helped. The Ministry of Textiles is also undertaking several skill development initiatives. Statistics show that there is a positive growth in the number of schools being opened and run for specific industry workers' children and rehabilitated children. So there are several practical solutions,” she adds.

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