Monday, October 29, 2007

Gap Threatens India's Clothing Boom

"Everyone knows factories in Shahpur Jat use child labor — it's an open secret," says Puja Sahu, owner of a fashionable boutique in the area where the Observer reporter allegedly found the sweatshop. Shahpur Jat lies in the southern part of Delhi and houses grimy, dimly lit sweatshops behind plush, high-end boutiques. On Monday, there were no children working in the unit that had reportedly been making clothes for Gap, but several children were seen embroidering clothes in a number of other factories. Sahu says trained embroiderers and tailors are paid between $110 and $150 a month, whereas "children can be employed for less than half of this, sometimes for no money at all if their parents have sold them off."

The Indian government tried to downplay the issue and none of the ministries in whose domain it has arisen has commented. It was left to Commerce Minister Kamal Nath to react to the report. According to the Times of India, Nath said the allegations would be probed, while warning developed countries against using allegations of child labor as a pretext for taking protectionist tariff measures. Children's rights activists, however, see the latest allegations as typical of the problems associated with India's economic rise, where growth is prioritized over social equity. Pradeep Narayan of the non-profit Child Rights and You says, "Policies on liberalization, privatization, trade, export-import, et cetera get implemented very fast and very effectively. But the policies on the social sector, like health or child labor, never do."

Full Story: TIME

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