New Delhi – 19th July, 2009
An investigation by the Sunday Times (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_ and_americas/ article6719151.ece?token=null&offset=0&page=1) has today exposed that children as young as 6-8 yrs. are working in mica mines in Jharkhand and Bihar, collecting mica for export all over the world in the cosmetics industry. The investigations revealed that thousands of children are involved in illegal collection of mica, which is being exported to major brand including Merck KGaA, the German based pharmaceutical co., which further supplies this mica to some of the biggest names in the cosmetics industry.
Bachpan Bachao Andolan has been working in the area to provide access to education to children and has been responsible for opening of several schools and rescue and withdrawal of hundreds of children from child labour in the area. Bhuwan Ribhu, National Sec. BBA said, “When we started working in the area, there was hardly any consciousness on education and against child labour in the people and more than 5000 children were involved in mica collection. As mica is right there in the soil, the opportunity to make easy money was more appealing to children and their parents than education. However over a period of time, we have shown that change is possible. People are beginning to understand that poverty can not be seen as a reason for children’s exploitation and exposing the children to health and safety hazards like skin and respiratory diseases. When we opened schools in the area, a lot of children took up education and an increasing number of children are going to school now. But still a lot of effort is required from the Govt. as NGOs can only play a small role for a limited time in providing the fundamental right of education."
Govind Khanal, BBA activist in Koderma (Jharkhand) said, “We are currently working in 9 villages to raise awareness in the entire area of Giridih, Koderma in Jharkhand and Nawadah in Bihar. We have demonstrated that with little help, children like Manan, who recently raised the issue of education for all at the 10th anniversary of ILO Convention 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labour in Geneva, after being withdrawn from the mica mines in Koderma, can do exceeding well in school. The Govt. needs to take up this issue and ensure free, compulsory and quality education to all children in the area, access to social welfare mechanisms for their parents and families with access to social security, minimum wage, health insurance, freedom of association, etc.”
The lack of alternative means of employment for adults, resulting in acute poverty coupled with the naxalite presence and such illegal opencast mining also shows the absence of Govt. social welfare systems and law enforcement in the area.
Kailash Satyarthi, Chairperson Global March Against Child Labour and founder BBA said, “International corporations need to do more work and take up more responsibility in their supply chain. Leaving an area or changing one supplier after child labour is found is not the solution. Corporations must ensure that their profits are not made at the cost of children and should work towards elimination of child labour. Corporate Social Responsibility lies in a firm commitment throughout the supply chain if we want to eliminate child labour. The Governments of importing countries also must play a pro active role in elimination of child labour alongwith the Government of India.”
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_ and_americas/ article6719151.ece?token=null&offset=0&page=1