17499 Fri, 12/11/2009 - 3:18pm
By Raja Sharma
The rug weaving industry in India has a long and colorful history that can be traced as far back as 500 B.C. It is part of the cultural and social fabric of the country that touches almost every life in India, including those of its children. They grow up watching family members and friends creating beautiful carpets, and they often join the family business and continue the family tradition.
For that reason, in discussing the issue of child labor in India’s rug making industry, it is very important to distinguish between what is an integral facet of the country’s cultural tradition, and what today’s modern, more enlightened societies have come to recognize as the reprehensible practice of using forced child labor to cut business cost and increase the profit margin.
Among those leading the fight in India to eradicate the practice of child labor is the Carpet Export Promotion Council (CEPC). Established by the Ministry of Textiles of the government of India in 1982, the 2,000-member CEPC is comprised of senior trade representatives and government officials who promote the export of hand-knotted rugs and all other types and styles of floor coverings from India.
To help achieve its goals, the CEPC developed the Kaleem label for all its members’ products. To earn this label, members must meet a rigorous set of criteria that ensure no child labor was used. They must also contribute a percentage of the FOB value of their exports to benefit the child welfare fund.
Proceeds from the Kaleem label contribute toward the welfare of the weaver community, including providing free medical care to the families and vocational training to the children, with guaranteed stipends. The CEPC is also registering all member looms, and to date has registered more than 80 percent of them, getting the full address, names, ages and pictures of people working on them. To ensure strict adherence to CEPC policies, random visits are made to the looms and child labor violations reported to the authorities.
In addition, the CEPC is a strong supporter of government initiatives that address child labor in India, a country that has made enormous strides to eliminate the practice. New government laws guarantee a free education and midday meals to all children up to the 12th grade. The government also guarantees up to 100 days of employment to alleviate the impact of the global recession in rural communities.
Thanks to strong government and private programs like those of the CEPC, India is quickly becoming a model nation for ending the practice of child labor throughout the country.
Raja Sharma is the vice chairman of the Carpet Export Promotion Council. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.