The world’s biggest diamond and gemstone cutting centre is India and diamond is also one of the biggest export earners of the country, constituting almost around 80 percent of the total export value of gems and jewellery. Surat in Gujrat is one of the main centres for India’s diamond industry.
According to the statistic more than 20,000 children working in India’s diamond industry. The problem is the diamond industry is divided between a formal sector and a multitude of sub-contractors who are hard to police.
India is woefully home to the largest number of child laborers in the world. Brassware, glass and bangle industry, handloom and textiles, diamond cuttings, etc. are the different industries in India where child labor is very soaring. Approximately 85% of the world’s diamonds (57% by value) are cut in Gujarat. Small scale diamond mining is often conducted without training or expertise and is usually an unregulated activity. Indian manufacturers refuse to pay wages to workers hence to get rid of this they hire children as an easy source of cheap labor.
Life is full of beggary and deprivation for thousands of children who are being forced to work for long hours under terrible polishing diamonds according to international trade unions. Despite working for long hours as compared to adults; even they are more vulnerable to injuries and accidents but as result, they don’t get rewarded for they deserve. Consequently, the hidden darkness behind the blingy world of India’s diamond cutting industry lays the dust of exploitation and child labor.
Why children are preferred in the diamond industry?
Diamond cutting and polishing need flawless accuracy and the skill required for doing this is passed on from generation to generation among the workers’ families or picked up in the traditional hands-on training from master to apprentice. Nature determines the first three aspects of the four Cs — colour, clarity, and carat – of the diamond, but the 4th C, that is, the cut of the diamond, depends on the human hand. The cut of the diamond is considered to be the main factor in judging the stone’s beauty and price. Thus, it is the worker’s sharp eyesight and his deft hands that give the final shape, ie cut, polish and brilliance, to the otherwise rough diamond stones. Children are considered more suitable for this. They are sharp insight and have steady hands. They can cut the stones much more quickly and accurately than an adult worker. This is one of the reasons why child labour is employed comparatively on a larger scale in the diamond industry.
Working conditions in diamond industry
An unhealthy working environment inside the factories. The factory rooms are congested, poorly ventilated, and poorly lit. The ground diamond creates a lot of dust in the crowded rooms and proves harmful to the health of the workers. Children suffer from body ache and their fingertips get scraped by the polishing and cutting of stones. Most of the workers, including the children, suffer from health problems like headaches, eye strain, leg and shoulder pain, tooth decay, dysentery, etc. The children, generally boys between 10 and 14 years of age, work for seven to nine hours a day.
Despite laws and regulations to prevent child labour, India is a home to the largest number of child labourers in the diamond industry. The Government has already declared this industry as one of the most hazardous in the country where even six-year-olds are found cutting diamonds. However, child labour in any form or in any industry is a crime and should be totally abolished. To accept the fact, it cannot be eliminated overnight. One main cause of child labour is poverty. Most parents of child labour do not favour its abolition. The families themselves force their children to work for an additional income.
It is time that more and more strict measures are taken by the Government so that thousands of crores of rupees earmarked for poverty alleviation reaches the actual targeted groups. Effective measures and spread of awareness is required so that the families of the child labourers in the diamond industry get the benefits of poverty alleviation programmes due to them.