MAC: Mines and Communities

Call to act on modern slavery and child labour in Indian quarries

Published by MAC on 2015-05-12
Source: India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN),

A new Dutch report reveals the conditions under which thousands of poor Indians - including children - have to work in quarrying stone, describing
it as to "slave labour". The report can be downloaded here.

Another study, by long-standing pro-Adivasi activist, Stan Swamy, exposes those who profit from such exploitation in the state of Jharkand.

He argues that if young people decide to join Maoist "terror groups", this is at least partly in response to the exploitation and land loss their
familes have to suffer in the quarries.

Finally, UNICEF has recently published a 2014 Pilot Project on global Children’s Rights in the Extractives Industry, which can be downloaded here

See also on MAC: Blood bricks: how India's urban boom is built on slave labour

Modern slavery and child labour in Indian quarries

Stop Child Labour urges companies and governments to act

11 May 2015

Utrecht - Modern slavery is widespread in Indian granite quarries. Child labour also occurs frequently. Most Dutch importers of Indian granite give no information from which quarries they are sourcing their granite or say they do not know from which quarries the stone comes from. 

This is the main outcome of the report 'Rock Bottom - Modern Slavery and Child Labour in South Indian Granite Quarries’ on working conditions in South Indian granite quarries which is published by the India Committee of the Netherlands in collaboration with the coalition Stop Child Labour. Last year KPMG already concluded that the risk of these labour right violations in the granite industry is extremely high and that Dutch companies often do little to avoid the risks of violating human rights.

Gerard Oonk, director of the India Committee of the Netherlands, is not surprised by the results: "Companies doing business in this industry can no longer close their eyes to these problems. Also Dutch companies have the responsibility to prevent or address these human rights violations."

Predatory loans

Around 20 percent of the global granite reserves are located in India. India is also the second largest exporter of granite, much of which ends up on the European market. The main buyers of granite are the construction sector (eg. for public buildings and squares), the funeral industry (gravestones) and the retail sector (kitchen countertops, garden ornaments etc.).

In the examined granite quarries Indian national laws and international labour rights are violated on a large scale. More than half of the interviewed quarry workers have large debts to quarry owners and recruiters. Salary advances or loans are provided by quarry owners to tie workers to the job. The interest on the loan is often so high - up to 48 percent per year - that workers can hardly pay off the loan. In addition, for some workers it is even prohibited to leave the quarry and talk to people outside the quarry. Also, there is still a sizable number of child labourers in one of two Indian states examined in the report. In the other state child labour was sharply reduced by government intervention.

Companies have little insight in their supply chain

26 European natural stone companies have been requested to review a draft version of the report. The companies were also asked whether they have insight in the origin of their granite products at the level of the quarries and whether they purchase from the quarries that were examined in the study. Of the 26 companies only 12 responded. And although only 2 of these companies claim to have insight in the origin of granite products at quarry level, it is noteworthy that 8 companies indicate that they do not obtain granite from the quarries investigated. Only 3 of the 12 companies have joined an initiative that aims at improving working conditions in the natural stone industry.

Appeal to Dutch Prime Minister Rutte and Minister Ploumen of Trade and Development

Stop Child Labour calls on the Dutch government to raise the problems exposed by this research with their Indian counterparts: "In early June, Prime Minister Rutte is leading a major trade delegation to India in which also Minister Ploumen of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation participates. The human rights violations and actions to address these violations should be on the agenda of this delegation," says Sofie Ovaa, coordinator of Stop Child Labour. ''The government should also strengthen its policy on sustainable procurement in the context of the procurement of granite by government organizations - for example for squares and buildings, '' according to Oonk and Ovaa.

Download the report Rock Bottom


About the India Committee of the Netherlands

India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) is an independent non-governmental organisation campaigning and advocating on human rights issues. Central to the work of ICN are the issues of caste-based discrimination, labour rights and child labour & education.

ICN co-operates with organisations in India and elsewhere in combating discrimination, poverty, oppression, exploitation and lack of education, focusing on the role of policy makers and companies. ICN is an active member of the Stop Child Labour coalition.

About Stop Child Labour

Stop Child Labour is coalition of organizations committed to child labour free production chains and aims to eliminate all forms of child labour and to ensure quality fulltime education for all children until at least the age of 15. Stop Child Labour promotes an area-based approach towards the creation of ‘child labour free zones’.

Stop Child Labour collaborates with organisations in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and calls on consumers, companies, governments and international organisations to join their efforts to combat child labour.

Real terrorists are those who destroy natural resources for private profit

Stan Swamy

-  38 hills have disappeared in Jharkhand due to stone-mining -

Profile of Jharkhand:  Stone mining/quarrying

Duration: last 14 years

Wealth made: Rs. 93,000 crores;

total revenue to state govt: Rs. 515 crores

Stone-quarrying units (in 2014): 20,000

Wealth made during 2014: Rs. 20,000 crores;

revenue to state govt: Rs. 81 crores

38  Hills in five Districts [Latehar, Gumla, Lohardaga, Koderma, Sahibganj] have disappeared; stone-mafias in collaboration with govt officials and political leaders  are guilty;

Govt’s Mines Dept, Forest Dept, District Administration,

Pollution Control Board are failing to fulfill their responsibility;

3000 mines are operating illegally in Sahibganj and Pakur districts

[all above data taken obtained from Prabhat Khabar,23,24,25 April 2015]

The unfortunate victims are the rural poor, especially the Adivasi people in whose land most of these mines are illegally functioning.

Who will bell the cat? The Jharkhand High Court is taking suo-motu action and has asked the state govt to respond as to how 38 hills have vanished. [Prabhat Khabar 28 April 2015]

The General Public has the right to know:

(1) who are the mines/stone crusher owners?  There are presently 20,000 mines/crushers in operation. The state govt must release the names of all the owners.  The High Court should demand that the govt submit the list in full;

(2) if Govt’s Mines Dept, Forest Dept, District Administration, Pollution Control Board are all part of the game, those responsible for these depts should be brought to book ;

(3) the IAS officers occupying the position of Secretaries of these depts should be asked to explain as to how they allowed this anomaly to go on for so many years;is

(4) the state Cabinet Ministers of these portfolios need to answer why they did not stop this loot;

(5) the MLAs and MPs some of whom are known to own these mines/crushers should be asked to open their books and bank accounts.

(6) the Chief Ministers who ruled the state during these 14 years have a moral obligation to explain their inaction to stop this wholesale loot.

The damage caused by these mines/crushers is beyond description:                          

(1) deep mines have drawn the water from the neighbouring areas making the wells and ponds in the villages & fields to dry up;

(2) the dust from the crushers have polluted the rivers and rivulets to the point of their becoming unfit for human, animal consumption;

(3) the air pollution in the form of dust emanating from the crushers has led to serious respiratory illnesses to people, animals;

(4) layers of dust covering the neighbouring fields, groves, vegetation is increasingly making the land barren and unfit for cultivation;

(5) the powerful dynamite blasting in the mines shakes up the houses in nearby villages so people cannot even sleep peacefully.

The injustice done to the Indigenous Adivasi/Moolvasi farmers should be undone:

(1) it is common knowledge that most of this stone mining is done on Adivasi land. The miners appoint dalals [agents] who cheat and/or threaten the poor Adivasi to agree to the mining/quarrying. Some paltry amount of money is given to the Adivasi farmer. He is made to put his signature/thumb impression on blank sheet of paper. He will never know what is going to be written above his signature.  He will rarely be able to recover his land. Even if he recovers it, it will be unfit for any cultivation since the land will have turned barren.

(2) let it be borne in mind that this process of impoverishing the small/marginal Adivasi land-owner is a great injustice done to him and his community. This must be undone.

(3) the looted money should be recovered from the illegal mine/quarry owner and an equitable share of it must be given to the Adivasi farmer. It’s a question of justice.

Adivasi youth have no other choice than to  join the militant forces: there is a limit  to which one can be squeezed. When all those bearing social responsibility in society have abandoned a particular section of society and are ravaged by unscrupulous, selfish elements, the only way out is militancy which revolts against the very  economic, social, political system. Rightly the SC observed “If tribals’ land is being sold illegally, then they (tribals) will turn into Naxalites…”     [ SC verdict on 25 March 2014 on a PIL on illegal transfer of tribal land] .

Consequently we have a scenario where over 6000 young Adivasis are languishing in the jails of Jharkhand. But sadly neither the Legislature nor the Executive nor the Judiciary seem particularly concerned about it. Right now about 150 prisoners in Ranchi jail who have served their full term of conviction are on an indefinite hunger strike, demanding their immediate release. But no one seems concerned.

The Media (electronic & print) has also abandoned its journalistic ethics: it is common knowledge that most of the media is owned & controlled by corporate houses. We make an earnest appeal that at least as professional individuals they will obey the dictate of their conscience and bring out the truth even if it is unpalatable to the powers that be. Let them for a start bring out the list of names of the 20,000 illegal stone quarry owners.

Justice must be restored so peace can prevail.

Stan Swamy




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