Friday, October 06, 2017

Govt of India "rattled"? ILO study refers to forced labour in big South Asian factories, yet doesn't mention India

By Our Representative
Strange though it may seem, the Government of India is reportedly rattled by a study, released jointly by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Australia’s Walk Free Foundation (WFF), “Global Estimates of Modern Slavery”, despite the fact that it does not provide any estimates for India, nor does it criticize India in any in its 68-pages.
Top British daily “The Guardian”, quoting an Intelligence Bureau (IB) memo appearing in a recent report, says, it advises the Government of India “to launch a campaign to ‘discredit’ research into the country’s modern slavery problem because it has the ‘potential to substantially harm India’s image and exports’,” underlining, it does so India even though “India was not specifically mentioned.”
However, claims the daily, “Successive research has estimated the number of modern slaves in the country to be between 14m and 18m people –the most in the world”, adding, “The intelligence memo claimed that researchers were increasingly ‘targeting’ India as a modern slavery hub.”
While it is difficult to say what may have rattled the Government of India, the ILO-WFF study especially takes strong exception to how so far, in references to forces labour in the manufacturing sector, unfortunately, attention has only been “focused on the abuses in small garment or footwear factories in the largely infor­mal sector of the South Asian countries”.
It underlines, though without giving any facts, “Growing aware­ness of global supply chain risks has led to coercion being detected in the production of a range of products that until recently had escaped public attention.”
Providing an unnamed example, it says, “Just one ex­ample is the manufacture of garments for medical use – a large global industry produc­ing some 150 billion pairs of gloves per year and with a market value of more than US$ 5 billion – for which most production is outsourced to factories in Asia that rely on migrant workers.”
“The doc­umented concerns at many of these factories include ex­cessive working hours and production targets, payment of high recruitment fees, il­legal retention of passports, and in some cases illegal im­prisonment and beatings of workers”, it underlines.
It continues, “At the higher end of the manufacturing scale, abuses in the electrical and electronics industry have also received global attention, with some major electron­ics, telecommunications, and technology brands encoun­tering criticism over labour exploitation, including forced labour, in their supply chains.” 
The study also notes how “patterns of Asian bonded labour”, noted about four decades ago, continue even now: “Traditional forms of bonded labour still sur­vive throughout South Asia, particularly in rural areas where land and tenancy re­forms have not taken place, and where landowners still enjoy wide powers.”
“Much of today’s bonded labour is associated more with internal migration, the involvement of labour contractors and re­cruiting intermediaries, and work in a range of sectors in the informal economy”, it says, adding, the areas where such bonded labour exists include “min­ing, brick-making, fish-pro­cessing, gem-cutting, and carpet-weaving”, many of whom are “hazardous.”
Overall, according to ILO-WFF estimates, without mentioning India, “Modern slavery occurred in every re­gion of the world. Modern slavery was most prevalent in Africa (7.6 per 1,000 people), followed by Asia and the Pacific (6.1 per 1,000) then Europe and Central Asia (3.9 per 1,000).”
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Pix: Screenshots from the study

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