Findings by the Utrecht-based human rights organization, the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN), with regard to granite quarries in Andhra Pradesh,Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka indulging in slavery and child labour in an unsafe work environment, has been rejected by a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)-led fact-finding mission.
It may be recalled that the ICN had published an article titled "The Dark Sites of Granite" in August, 2017, in which it claimed that granite mines in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka were rampantly indulging in slavery and exploiting children for labour in a work environment that were unsafe and risky.
The ICN said these granite mines were located in the districts of Prakasam (Andhra Pradesh), Karimnagar (Telangana), Salem and Krishnagiri (Tamil Nadu) and Ramanagara (Karnataka).
In response to that ICN article, a fact-finding mission comprising of members of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), UNICEF India, State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and Prakasam, Karimnagar, Salem and Krishnagiri districts, carried out two surveys in September 2017 and February 2018, and rejected the finding of the ICN.
One of the key findings of the fact-finding mission was that "The report published by the India Committee of Netherland is based on the visits and survey conducted during the Monsoon when quarries are mostly closed. Therefore, the timings of the visits are questionable."
The NCPCR-led fact-finding mission made nine other observations, which were as follows:
1. All processes of the granite industry were found to be completely mechanized, and therefore, there was no scope for manual labour or child labour.
2. The mines were located far from the villages and there was no evidence of children being employed in the mines.
3. That workers in these quarries were mostly migrant labourers from Bihar, Odisha and Tamil Nadu, and single. That these migrants were living in accommodation arranged by quarry owners or in rented rooms in local towns or villages.
4. That there was no other visible economic activity being conducted in regions where these quarries were situated.
5. That villagers confirmed of there being significant economic progress in the last decade due to the establishment of the granite industry.
6. That only skilled labourers were being used in cutting and polishing units, and therefore, there was no scope for child labour.
7. That some children (13+ age group) were not regularly attending schools.
8. That there was a need to provide and upgrade vocational skilling to village communities.
9. That there was a need for a independent monitoring system to control basic social and environmental standards in mines and factories.
Phase I of the fact-finding mission covered the districts of Prakasam and Karimnagar in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana respectively. Phase II covered Salem and Krishnagiri districts in Tamil Nadu and Ramanagara district in Karnataka.
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