January 13, 2008, Kota – Budhpura – Kota (Sunday)

1. Talk with Mr. Mohan and his daughters in Budhpura

Mr. Mohan

Mr. Mohan is 35 years old [1] and has worked in a quarry for the past thirty years. He now suffers from TB (Silicosis) and is laid low. Now his wife has to work in the quarry in order to feed three of their daughters who still live at home. Two more daughters are already married. His wife, who has to work on Sundays, too, is therefore not at home, earns 50 Rupies a day (90 Euro Cents). She has one day off per month. She works a total of 335 days a year. All this makes it obvious that the family lives far below the poverty line. However, this fact is not recognized by the local authorities and Mr. Mohan is not granted a BLP-card (Below Poverty Line). Without this card however he is not entitled to free medication and other government benefits. Therefore he suffers without any medical assistance. In order to have some medication and see a doctor at least every now and then his twelve year old daughter, who like the others has never been to school, also has to work in the quarry.

Mr. Mohans Töchter

For twelve hours of work (the same as her mother) she earns 20 to 25 rupies (40 to 45 Euro Cents). When I ask her whether she would like to go to school she returns a look that pierces my heart deeply and that I cannot get out of my mind for days to come – with every fibre of her small being she screams „YES, YES, YES“, but her father only succinctly replies on behalf of her: “Rubbish!”

Is there noone in the Indian administration who will take care of this family’s fate? Since Mr. Mohan broke stones that now pave the streets in Germany there ought to be someone in Germany, too, who might like to help here…

Deeply moved and with a very queasy feeling I go on to the

2. Professional conference of the Rotary Club Kota on the issue of child labour in quarriesRotary Club

Once back in Kota I proceed straight to the Rotarians – according to themselves all members of the Indian middle class. For me, who spent the morning with the poorest of the poor, they are the super-rich! Wie auch immer, the chairperson is also an exporter of natural stones to Germany (and a XertifiX licencee) and England and according to his own statement the biggest producer of limestone in India. He did not invite the local Rotarians for this meeting but stone exporters, five representatives each for the different regions in South Rajasthan. Apart from two who are currently abroad all of the came and an extremely interesting and very open dialogue evolved. Sri Om Birla, the parliamentary secretary of state of the government of Rajastan adviser to the prime minister was surprisingly direct and critical towards the stone exporters. Furthermore, representatives of the Ministry of Mines of the central government are present as well.
BodhpuraI learn on site that the situation is particularly tense at the moment because a well regarded report was published in the British press before christmas, accusing all stone producers of illegally employing children and speaking of hundreds of thousands child labourers in the Indian stone export industry alone! The very detailed report in the German magazine „Naturstein“ (12/07) is known here, too, and is being much discussed.

The present exporters rightly ask me to put the facts right and also report on the social measures they have initiated as well as the fact that they are very well aware of the problem of child labour in parts of the stone export industry. They also stress that they are willing to face the challenges and accept independent inspections through XertifiX. If they do utter criticism, it is much more directed towards the rude, exclusively monetarily oriented behaviour of some German importers who, according to some of the exporters, are only interested in maximizing their profits and devoid of all human feeling. Despite these occasional human disappointments it is generally agreed that it should be possible within a couple of years to master the Bodhpuraproblem of child labour. The exporters even agree to start boykott measures against those producers who are not willing refrain from using child labour and who reject independent inspections. They are mainly suppliers from whom the exporters purchase stones. One of the problematic areas mentioned is Bodhpura, where I could personally meet dozens of child labourers only this morning – on a Sunday! All of them work on Kobals for export to Europe.

[1] Honestly: Who would have thought that he is really 35 when looking at his picture?

Pictures: Benjamin Pütter, India 2008