Offside: Child labour rampant in football stitching

October 6th, 2008 - 8:39 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 6 (IANS) Next time you take to playfield and kick a football, remember that in all possibility it was created by tender yet wounded pair of hands in an obscure village in north India.Lack of consumer awareness, among others, is the main reason for well-known companies like Cosco allegedly using children in stitching footballs and robbing their childhood.

Releasing a report on child labour in the football stitching industry, which is especially rampant in Meerut in Uttar Pradesh and Jalandhar in Punjab in north India, Kailash Satyarthi of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), an NGO which works on child rights, said that despite policies against employing children in manufacturing processes, many companies do so blatantly.

“Take the example of Cosco. It is a well-known company which makes footballs and has a so called policy against child labour. However, contractors make children stitch footballs for a meagre amount, and then these are sold at 40 times the price paid to them,” Satyarthi said.

Gaurav, all of 12, who was present at the report release function and who stitches footballs, said he gets Rs.4-5 per football. One mistake, and the contractor deducts Rs.2. He barely manages to stitch two in a day.

“I have been stitching since I was seven. My whole family does that for a living, therefore my parents asked me to join in too. It’s difficult to stitch the thick leather ones (those exported). The local ones are easier,” he told IANS.

Gaurav, who hails from Meerut, however, is luckier than most of his other counterparts.

Gautam, another child involved in football stitching, said: “Gaurav has played football. I have never done that but really, really want to.”

According to a study by the BBA in association with International Labour Rights Forum, more than 5,000 children - most among them girls - are involved in football stitching and manufacturing other sports goods in India.

“I don’t like stitching footballs, but have to. I often prick myself in the process, have a constant back ache and my eyes hurt. I wish I could go to school,” said 13-year-old Nisha, who also hails from Meerut.

Satyarthi said: “There has to be an increased consumer awareness to put an end to child labour here and everywhere else. It’s heart breaking to see kids stitching ‘child labour free’ tags on the footballs.”

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