Landelijke India Werkgroep

Bonded (child) labour in the South Indian Garment Industry

An Update of Debate and Action on the 'Sumangali Scheme'

SOMO - Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations
ICN - India Committee of the Netherlands
July 2012
In a year time, the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) have published two major reports documenting the exploitation of Dalit girls in the South Indian garment industry that produces for European and US markets. See:

This update zooms in on on-going abuses in the Tamil Nadu garment industry, as well as on the debate and actions to tackle the `Sumangali SchemeŽ, that is fuelled by the findings and recommendations of the SOMO and ICN reports.

In May 2011, SOMO and ICN published `Captured by CottonŽ. This report evoked considerable company responses and promises for improving the documented labour rights violations. Almost a year later `Maid in IndiaŽ was issued, in which SOMO and ICN together with local human rights groups continue to monitor the commitments of brands, trade associations and CSR initiatives to take concrete action.

Workers in the textile mills and garment factories in Tamil Nadu, South India, suffer exploitative working conditions. In `Maid in IndiaŽ, SOMO and ICN document that more than 100,000 girls - possibly up to 300,000 - work under employment schemes, often referred to as Sumangali, that amount to bonded labour. Workers make long hours, including forced overtime, under unhealthy conditions. Wages in the spinning mills are far below the legal minimum.

The Update focusses on:
- A few hopeful signs of change in the Tamil Nadu garment industry;
- Increasing number of migrant workers in the industry, including from Bihar and Rajasthan;
- Denial of child labour by Factory Inspector while police raids discover workers under 14;
- Political responses in Europe and the USA;
- Steps taken by garment brands and multi-stakeholder initiatives;
- New reports and the media on 'Sumangali';
- The role of caste and the position of Dalit girls.

India Committee of the Netherlands / Landelijke India Werkgroep - Jul 16, 2012