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Five lakh child workers engaged in e-waste activities, mainly generated by industrial sectors: ASSOCHAM


Counterview Desk
India's top corporate body, Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM), has admitted that there are about four to five lakh child workers in the age group 10-15 engaged in various electronic waste (e-waste) activities alone. It does not, however, say what percentage does it form of the total number of child workers in India.
Pointing out that child workers are engaged in e-waste activities “without adequate protection and safeguards in various yards and recycling workshops”, ASSOCHAM secretary-general DS Rawat claimed, “The chamber has also strongly advocated the need to bring out effective legislation to prevent entry of child labour into its collection, segregation and distribution.”
Suggesting that child labour is particularly alarming because “India is emerging as one of the world's major electronic waste generators and likely to generate 52 lakh metric tonnes (MT) per annum by 2020 from the current level 18 lakh metric tonnes”, the study says, e-waste in India is “growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 30%.
As against this, the study, ‘Electronic Waste Management in India,’ carried out in association with cKinetics, says, “The global volume of e-waste generated is expected to reach 130 million tons in 2018 from 93.5 million tons in 2016 at a compound annual growth rate of 17.6 percent from 2016 to 2018.”
“As Indians become richer and spend more electronic items and appliances, computer equipment accounts for almost 70% of e-waste material followed by telecommunication equipment (12%), electrical equipment (8%) and medical equipment (7%)”, the study says, adding, “Other equipment, including household e-crap account for the remaining 4%.”
“The sad part is that a mere 1.5% of India's total e-waste gets recycled due to poor infrastructure, legislation and framework which lead to a waste of diminishing natural resources, irreparable damage of environment and health of the people working in industry”, the study says.
“Over 95% of e-waste generated is managed by the unorganised sector and scrap dealers in this market, dismantle the disposed products instead of recycling it”, the study says, adding, “e-waste workers in India suffer from breathing problems, such as asthma and bronchitis. Many workers are children, who are unaware of the hazards and by the time they reach 35 to 40 years of age, they're incapable of working.”
“About two-thirds of e-waste workers in India suffering from respiratory ailments like breathing difficulties, irritation, coughing, choking, tremors problems who all are engaged in various e-waste (electronic waste) activities due to improper safeguards and dismantling workshops”, the study says.
“The recovery of metals like gold, platinum, copper and lead uses caustic soda and concentrated acids. The workers dip their hands in poisonous chemicals for long hours. They are also exposed to fumes of highly concentrated acid. Safety gear such as gloves, face masks and ventilation fans are virtually unheard of”, notes study.
The study believes, “Computers, televisions and mobile phones are most dangerous because they have high levels of lead, mercury and cadmium -- and they have short life-spans so are discarded more, adds the study.”
According to the study, the main sources of electronic waste are different the industrial sectors, which account for “almost 75% of total waste generation”, with the contribution of individual households being “relatively small at about 16 per cent.”

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