How prevalent is child labour in the Indian carpet market?

by Ofentse Sefolo
How prevalent is child labour in the Indian carpet market?

The most important buyer of handmade carpets is the United States, and the biggest exporter and producer of these carpets is India. However, international perceptions of production conditions and allegations of child labour, health hazards and non-environmentally friendly perceptions, continue to have a negative impact on India’s exports.

In October 2018, a TV film of the program PlusMinus of the ARD was made in the region of Agra and these arguments were repeated. In response to this, the Indian Government decided to control the working conditions and the consequences of production for the environment in this region. An analysis was carried out by the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and by UNICEF, as well as regional and state level organisations involved with children. The conception of the control work as well as its implementation was supported by the Carpet Export Promotion Council (CEPC) and from Indo-German Export Promotion Program (IGEP/RUGMARK), which has been working in the field of controlling child labour for 25 years.

At the opening day of the leading carpet fair Domotex in Hannover/Germany in January 2019, the results of this analysis were presented. Madan LalRaiger, Indian Consul General, officially released the study and emphasised, in the same way as other speakers from the side of the Indian exporters, that criticism of child labour in the carpet industry is very strongly exaggerated. LalRaiger said the Indian Government has improved the necessary legal framework comprehensively and has provided responsible institutions with the necessary competencies. Activities for controlling the governing bodies and the private sector are regularly being carried out.

There has been a considerable increase in the social and environmental responsibility of the government and private companies. Not only does this benefit local populations, workers and entrepreneurs, but also importers and foreign buyers. There need no longer be any guilt involved in importing handmade carpets from India.

Mahavir Sharma, Chairman of the Carpet Export Promotion Council, reiterated that India is committed to all social and environmental compliances and has strict child labour laws. He further said that the mandatory code of conduct for CEPC members already outlines these requirements. In addition to strict legal action, a member can also be debarred from the CEPC and denied all benefits as a member.

The report has strengthened India’s resolve to fight child labour issues and it shows that they intend to take strict legal action against organisations, agencies and film producers who create unreasonable and biased propaganda.

About India’s carpet industry
The 400 year old Indian carpet industry currently supports the livelihoods of about two million households, directly or indirectly. The Carpet Export Promotion Council (CEPC), the designated organisation under the Ministry of Textiles, Government of India, has been making a concerted effort, coupled with many other simultaneous initiatives taken by the Governments (both central and state) to improve the status of weavers and carpet artisans by undertaking various welfare activities and helping to eradicate the issue of child labour from the Indian carpet industry.

The Carpet Export Promotion Council
CEPC has undertaken significant self-regulating initiatives, both on its own and in cooperation with the Government of India. CEPC has formulated a Code of Conduct where adherence is mandatory for all its members. The code prohibits the use of child labour, unregistered looms and the sale or trading of such products made with the use of child labour. The CEPC initiated the exercise of Registration of Looms in which the owners of the looms furnish an oath or affidavit that they do not, and will not employ child labour. To create demand for the registration of looms, the CEPC formulated a strategy whereby only registered looms receive the weaving orders through its member-exporters. As informed by CEPC, the council also initiated the exercise of random inspections of the registered looms for verifying the veracity of their legal undertaking not to employ child labour.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to www.domotex.de for the information contained in this article.

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