U.S. labor department has denied that it has removed Indian carpets from a list of products produced by forced labor or child labor in violation of international norms.
Recently the Carpet Export Promotion Council hailed 'the decision of the U.S. Department of Labor in deleting Indian carpets as a product produced by forced labor or child labor in violation of international norms...The Labor Department wishes to clarify that it has not made a final determination about whether carpets from India are produced with child labor, forced child labor or forced labor, said Sandra Polaski, Deputy Undersecretary of Department of Labor (DOL) in a statement.
DOL said it publishes and continues to update a list of goods produced by child labor or forced labor and another on products requiring federal contractor certification as to forced or indentured child labor.
On September 11, 2009, the DOL released an initial determination in the Federal Register proposing an update to the list with 29 products from 21 countries, including carpets from India.
The DOL's notice requested public comments for a period of 90 days. Public comments were received and reviewed by all relevant agencies and a final determination was issued on July 20, 2010, in the Federal Register. The final determination provides responses to the most commonly received public comments.
The only difference between the 2009 initial determination and the 2010 final determination of the executive order list was that carpets from India was not included in the final determination.
However, the Labor Department said it needs more information for a final decision on classifying Indian carpets. Given that child labor and forced labor often occur in informal production of goods, the Labor Department believes that more information is needed to make a final determination on whether carpets from India should be included on both of its lists,” Polaski said.
The official added that a Labor Department contractor is currently undertaking extensive research on child and forced labor in carpet production in South Asia, including India.
“We expect to receive information on the use of forced child labor on both registered and unregistered looms through this research and will wait until that time before making a final decision on the inclusion of carpets from India on the executive order and TVPRA lists.
The Labor Department said it received a submission from the Carpet Export Promotion Council during the public comment period that suggested child labor may have been significantly reduced in the production of carpets in India in the formal sector.
India has the largest number of urban and rural child workers and forced workers in the world to produce hand-knotted carpets, gemstone polishing, brass and base metal articles, glassware, footwear, textiles and fireworks, according to a U.S. government report.
Hand-knotted carpets are exported in large quantity from India to the United States and Germany. Weaving centers are scattered throughout India while the largest centers are located in the carpet belt of Uttar Pradesh. Carpets are also produced in the Jammu-Kashmir region, as well as outside Jaipur in Rajasthan.
While the Government of India acknowledges at least 17.5 million working children, estimates of child workers by various organizations range from 44 million to over 100 million, the report said.
The report says that anywhere between 6,000 and 100,000 children are working in the diamond industry, cutting and polishing diamond chips. Children work in almost all aspects of brassware production for long hours and low wages and are exposed to health hazards.
According to the report, the number of children working in the glass industry range from 8,000 to 50,000. In addition, children working in glass factories in Ferozabad suffer from mental retardation, asthma, bronchitis, eye problems, liver ailments, skin burns, chronic anemia and tuberculosis.
The American Embassy-New Delhi advises that child labor is known or widely believed to be used in the shoe export industry. Some sources estimate that as many as 25,000 children may be involved in shoe making, both for the domestic and international markets.
The report says it is estimated that there are 50,000 to 100,000 child workers in the Sivakasi area working in the match and fireworks industries. An International Confederation of Free Trade Union - Asian and Pacific Regional Organisation study in 1992 estimated that 55 percent of the workers are below 14 years.