Even as the Cabinet approves stricter penalties for child labor violations, granite mines in Karnataka still employ a large number of children, many under the age of 14, to complete stone processing. A report titled Rock Bottom by the Netherlands-based non-government organisations India Committee of the Netherlands and Stop Child Labour, found that minors accounted for almost 10% of the total workforce in six quarries in state’s Raichur district.
While the heavy lifting of stone cutting and machine operation are left to the men, the industry employs women and children to process waste stones. This involves crushing chunks of granite that aren’t suitable to be processed into construction slabs into grit and gravel. Children break and crush the stones with hammers and nails, sitting barefoot, with no protection against silica dust and other hazards from the mines.
The children received lower wages than the women, who themselves were not paid according to the state’s minimum wage requirements, the report said. While most workers had no written contracts, the children were even less likely to be able to claim
Child labor in Raichur’s mines has declined after the clampdown on illegal mining in the state in 2005. At that time, an Indian fact-finding team visited iron ore and granite mines in Hospet and Bellary and concluded in its report, titled Our Mining Children, that a few lakh children had been forced into illegal mining activities.
The fact-findingteam found how children were paid according to how many puttus, or iron baskets, of stone they filled in a day. One puttu of about 10 kgs-15 kgs fetched Rs 5. A child could fill between six and ten in a day, depending on his energy that day.
Karnataka’s neighbour Tamil Nadu seems to have had more success in preventing children from working in its granite mines. The Rock Bottom survey found only one child below the age of 14 among the 12 quarries they visited in Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri. The under-18 workforce in Tamil Nadu’s mines was little more than 1%.
Like in Karnataka, illegal mining became a huge political issue in 2012 leading to strict monitoring of mines over the last two years. In order to avoid being hauled up for child labour violations, mine owners who employ migrant labour have asked employees not to bring their families to the mining sites.
Child labour continues not just in the mines of south India but across the country. In Rajasthan, women, children and the elderly support the efforts of the young, male breadwinner who works as a stone cutter in a mine. The rat-hole coal mines of Meghalaya which are vertical shafts, which then branch sideways, are no deeper than five feet. This means that mine owners often send in small and agile children at great risk to their life and limb.
The new amendment to the Child Labour (Protection and Regulation) Act makes child labour violations a cognisable offence. The amendment has also increases penalties with the maximum fine being raised from Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000 and imprisonment going up to two years instead of one year. However, the amendment also allows children under 14 to be employed in family-run business and in the entertainment sector. This dilution in the original act, activists say, will promote child labour.
As India turns 70, London School of Economics asks some provocative questions
Is India ready to become a global superpower?
Meaningful changes have always been driven by the right, but inconvenient questions. As India completes 70 years of its sovereign journey, we could do two things – celebrate, pay our token tributes and move on, or take the time to reflect and assess if our course needs correction. The ‘India @ 70: LSE India Summit’, the annual flagship summit of the LSE (London School of Economics) South Asia Centre, is posing some fundamental but complex questions that define our future direction as a nation. Through an honest debate – built on new research, applied knowledge and ground realities – with an eclectic mix of thought leaders and industry stalwarts, this summit hopes to create a thought-provoking discourse.
From how relevant (or irrelevant) is our constitutional framework, to how we can beat the global one-upmanship games, from how sincere are business houses in their social responsibility endeavours to why water is so crucial to our very existence as a strong nation, these are some crucial questions that the event will throw up and face head-on, even as it commemorates the 70th anniversary of India’s independence.
Is it time to re-look at constitution and citizenship in India?
The Constitution of India is fundamental to the country’s identity as a democratic power. But notwithstanding its historical authority, is it perhaps time to examine its relevance? The Constitution was drafted at a time when independent India was still a young entity. So granting overwhelming powers to the government may have helped during the early years. But in the current times, they may prove to be more discriminatory than egalitarian. Our constitution borrowed laws from other countries and continues to retain them, while the origin countries have updated them since then. So, do we need a complete overhaul of the constitution? An expert panel led by Dr Mukulika Banerjee of LSE, including political and economic commentator S Gurumurthy, Madhav Khosla of Columbia University, Niraja Gopal Jayal of JNU, Chintan Chandrachud the author of the book Balanced Constitutionalism and sociologist, legal researcher and Director of Council for Social Development Kalpana Kannabiran will seek answers to this.
Is CSR simply forced philanthropy?
While India pioneered the mandatory minimum CSR spend, has it succeeded in driving impact? Corporate social responsibility has many dynamics at play. Are CSR initiatives mere tokenism for compliance? Despite government guidelines and directives, are CSR activities well-thought out initiatives, which are monitored and measured for impact? The CSR stipulations have also spawned the proliferation of ambiguous NGOs. The session, ‘Does forced philanthropy work – CSR in India?” will raise these questions of intent, ethics and integrity. It will be moderated by Professor Harry Barkema and have industry veterans such as Mukund Rajan (Chairman, Tata Council for Community Initiatives), Onkar S Kanwar (Chairman and CEO, Apollo Tyres), Anu Aga (former Chairman, Thermax) and Rahul Bajaj (Chairman, Bajaj Group) on the panel.
Can India punch above its weight to be considered on par with other super-powers?
At 70, can India mobilize its strengths and galvanize into the role of a serious power player on the global stage? The question is related to the whole new perception of India as a dominant power in South Asia rather than as a Third World country, enabled by our foreign policies, defense strategies and a buoyant economy. The country’s status abroad is key in its emergence as a heavyweight but the foreign service officers’ cadre no longer draws top talent. Is India equipped right for its aspirations? The ‘India Abroad: From Third World to Regional Power’ panel will explore India’s foreign policy with Ashley Tellis, Meera Shankar (Former Foreign Secretary), Kanwal Sibal (Former Foreign Secretary), Jayant Prasad and Rakesh Sood.
Are we under-estimating how critical water is in India’s race ahead?
At no other time has water as a natural resource assumed such a big significance. Studies estimate that by 2025 the country will become ‘water–stressed’. While water has been the bone of contention between states and controlling access to water, a source for political power, has water security received the due attention in economic policies and development plans? Relevant to the central issue of water security is also the issue of ‘virtual water’. Virtual water corresponds to the water content (used) in goods and services, bulk of which is in food grains. Through food grain exports, India is a large virtual net exporter of water. In 2014-15, just through export of rice, India exported 10 trillion litres of virtual water. With India’s water security looking grim, are we making the right economic choices? Acclaimed author and academic from the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, Amita Bavisar will moderate the session ‘Does India need virtual water?’
Delve into this rich confluence of ideas and more at the ‘India @ 70: LSE India Summit’, presented by Apollo Tyres in association with the British Council and organized by Teamworks Arts during March 29-31, 2017 at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. To catch ‘India @ 70’ live online, register here.
At the venue, you could also visit the Partition Museum. Dedicated to the memory of one of the most conflict-ridden chapters in our country’s history, the museum will exhibit a unique archive of rare photographs, letters, press reports and audio recordings from The Partition Museum, Amritsar.
This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Teamwork Arts and not by the Scroll editorial team.