In a recent move, the Delhi government has called for a meeting with the owners/management of shopping malls to come up with a plan of action to ensure that the zari embroidered clothes put on sale are child labour free. This decision takes on significance in the wake of the High Court decision responding to a PIL filed by Save the Childhood Foundation (Bachpan Bachao Andolan, BBA) directing the Government to come up with a plan of action to rehabilitate child labourers especially in the zari embroidery units.
BBA has been the major advocate for child labour free zari industry. BBA rescued over 1000 children from zari units in 2005 following a research conducted which estimates approximately 100,000 children to be engaged in zari units in Delhi. BBA later filed a PIL in the Delhi High Court demanding the rehabilitation of children engaged in zari units. Following the research and raid, BBA also initiated talks with major fashion designers rallying for child labour free zari embroidered clothes and accessories. BBA also received responses from eminent designers like JJ Valaya.*
As per government estimates 50,000 children in the age group of 5-12 years are engaged in zari embroidery units in Delhi alone. Most of these children hail from Bihar and Jharkhand. Raid and rescue operations on these units have revealed the inhuman conditions of work: ill-lit and unhygienic rooms and the children earn a pittance, some as low as Rs. 40 per month.
In the first round of talks with Mall owners, the government directed that malls should take the lead and ensure that they procure from vendors who don’t employ child labourers. In the second round of talks due to take place shortly, the government would include fashion designers as well. Government has also approached Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) to display a message in major events like India Fashion Week that the products on exhibit are child labour free.
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