Child labour label hits Ludhiana knitwear export orders
The knitwear and clothing manufacturing units in the Northern India textile-hub of Ludhiana, are staring at an unusual situation where their US based buyers are cancelling orders, by alleging that, these units employed children. According to sources, around 20 percent of the orders have been cancelled at the last minute.
A few months back, the Ministry of Commerce and the apex body for garment exporters in India; Apparel Exporters Promotion Council (AEPC) had undertaken a project to educate the exporters regarding use of child labour as there was a chance of the US once again, censuring India with regards to the same, when it can up for review, a few months back.
Sharing his concern, Mr Vinod Thapar, President - Knitwear Club; a body made up of around 1,000 Ludhiana-based knitwear and textile producers, told fibre2fashion, “We share a sense of total disappointment on such accusations on the textile industry, which is the second largest source of providing employment after agriculture and known as the mother industry fulfilling, domestic and international garmenting needs. These situations carry a negative impact and really hurdle the performance and growth of the sector”.
Articulating her distress, Ms Monika Goyal, Director - Goyal Knitwears said, “Though we strongly feel that child labour should not be there, but at the same time we cannot forget the living & eating conditions of the poor community in India. This policy would be cent percent correct, if the Government would have provided education, food & clothes to the poor children.
“They do not have a roof to protect themselves in rain, heat or cold. So why is their working considered a curse? We feel that the age for child labour should come down. On one hand there is labour shortage in India, while on the other hand there is unemployment & the poor people are dying of hunger. If a grown up child, who does not have food to eat & a roof over his head, wants to earn money in a respectable way, it should not be criticized”.
When asked if there is any ground to such allegations on Indian companies, Mr Thapar replied by saying, “Indian knitwear companies are well aware of norms and policies governing labor laws and the industry is very much sensitized and seized by this matter, whereas there is no ground reality, in throwing such allegations on Indian companies”.
Ms Goyal in defense said, “If we compare India to China, then we feel that the work conditions are even worse in China, but due to China's closed door policies, nothing is being figured out. However, by witnessing the poverty in India, the big customers are always after the Indian manufacturers and pointing out such issues, but nothing is ever heard against China”.
With regards to the challenges faced by the knitwear sector, Ms Goyal listed; labour shortage, rise in raw material prices, resistance from consumers to hike in prices, weakening of US dollar and compliance norms getting more & more stringent, while Mr Thapar cited unusual hike in cotton and cotton yarn prices and stopping of the Technology Up-gradation Fund Scheme (TUFS), as the main reasons, hindering growth of knitwear/ textile industry.
Fibre2fashion News Desk - India