Child and Forced Labour in Textiles Manufacturing in Southern India
India is a global hub for textiles manufacturing and apparently, there are major incidences of child and forced labor.
In Tamil Nadu in southern India, young women are kept in what can amount to labor bondage through a practice dubbed the “Sumangali Scheme.” Girls from poor families are recruited by agents working for commission (paid by the factories per worker) and it seems that some are even taken without their parents’ consent.
The girls, some younger than 14, are paid less than the minimum wage for one to three years. After this work term is finished, the employer pays the withheld wages to the family as a lump sum to be used as a dowry.
In some instances the practice can mean forced labor: in these cases the employer binds the women to work by refusing to pay the withheld money unless they complete years of employment.
Once hired, they are trained as apprentices. They live in company-controlled compounds, segregated from union activists, and are not able to contact their families or leave. They are forced to work for low wages, in noisy factories, with long shifts of twelve hours (6 days a week), and often overtime is forced during busy seasons. Many suffer verbal and physical abuse, including sexual abuse, and gender discrimination. It’s a horrifying life.
Children can be found working in the textile industries of Gujarat and greater Delhi. These children commonly work long hours in difficult, dangerous conditions. In Gujarat, ILRF and its partner Prayas helped free one 12 year-old boy held in captivity by a cotton gin in owner after having lost his arm in a ginning accident.
Sources: free2work.com CCC, SOMO & ICN: Captured by Cotton, 2011 Anti-Slavery International: Research 2009-2010 PRAYAS: Research, 2012 ILRF: “Child Laborer Finally Freed From Captivity After Losing Arm in Cotton Ginning Accident,” Labor is Not a Commodity Blog, 2012 Verite: Regional Report: Indian Workers in Domestic Textile Production, 2010
Part of The Compassionate Consumer series – exclusive to North Meditation
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