New Delhi, Oct 18 (UNI) Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jairam Ramesh has cautioned carpet exporters to guard against the possibility of revival of child labour being made an issue by the US.
'' There is every possibility that the US is moving once again to publicly list handmade carpets as products of child labour,'' Mr Ramesh said while inaugurating the third India Carpet Expo in Varanasi yesterday.
The Minister said the US Department of Labour issued a public notice on October one, seeking comments on ''procedural guidelines'' for the development of a public list of goods from countries produced by child and forced labour in violation of international standards.
''This action is in response to a law passed last year by the US Congress that instructs the US government to carry out additional activities to monitor and combat forced labour and child labour in foreign countries,'' he said.
Mr Ramesh said the government and industry will have to work together to effectively deal with this new development '' which could be used by groups hostile to our interests.'' He said a similar effort by the US Congress to ban import of handmade carpets from India on the child labour issue did not succeed 10 years ago because of the combined efforts made by the government and industry.
Mr Ramesh said now Indian exporters are in a position to give their buyers the ''Kaleen'' certificate to commit that no child labour is used in carpet making. The greater use of ''Kaleen'' would also help in combating adverse propaganda against India not only by foreign countries but also by Indian NGOs and civil society groups.
The central and state governments must also step up their verification and monitoring campaigns to ensure that anti-child labour laws are implemented in every way. He revealed that a joint initiative is being planned by the Union Ministries of Commerce, Labour and Women and Child Development concerning industries where there is a strong public perception on the use of child labour like carpets, garments, sports goods and gems and jewellery.
The Minister also called upon the Carpet Export Promotion Council (CEPC) to carry out an independent social audit every year to convince NGOs and others that incidence of child labour has indeed come down significantly over the past two decades.
In 2006-07, U S accounted for half of India's exports of handmade carpets worth 800 million dollars. Germany was the second big market accounting for another 20 per cent. India accounts for about 35 per cent of world trade in handmade carpet and occupied the top spot among all handmade carpet exporters ahead of China, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey last year.
About two million artisans are directly employed in carpet making in Uttar Pradesh( Varanasi, Mirzapur, Bhadohi and Shahjahanpur), J&K (Srinagar and Jammu), Rajasthan (Jaipur) and Haryana (Panipat).
Complimenting the carpet industry on its export performance over the past two years, Mr Ramesh exhorted it to invest in new designs and technology to enhance productivity and competitiveness.
CEPC Chairman Ashok Jain sought greater subsidies on export credit to meet growing challange from China and Pakistan, adding hardening of the rupee has adversely affected competitiveness of Indian handmade carpets in overseas markets.