Landelijke India Werkgroep

       April 4, 2014

‘Small Steps - Big Challenges’ in Tamil Nadu’s textile industry

Garment brands not transparent on tackling bonded labour in India

Most Dutch and international companies importing garments from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu refuse to be transparent about if and how they tackle bonded labour at their suppliers. An estimated 100,000 young children and teenage girls are victims of 'bonded labour' or 'modern slavery'. These girls – mostly Dalit ('outcaste') – live in hostels, with little freedom of movement, underpaid for long working-days and working under unhealthy conditions.

This is an important conclusion of the paper Small Steps, Big Challenges - Update on (tackling) exploitation of girls and young women in the garment supply chain of South India that FNV Mondiaal (international department of Dutch trade union confederation) and the India Committee of the Netherlands have just published. The report discusses the current situation in Tamil Nadu, the limited improvements after previous reports and the responses of 21 Dutch and international garment brands on the question of what they do to combat the abuses. It also discusses the activities of various joint initiatives by companies and other organisations. [read more]

Maid in India

Young Dalit Women Continue to Suffer Exploitative Conditions in India’s Garment Industry

European and US garment brands and retailers have failed in their attempts to structurally improve labour conditions at their suppliers in Tamil Nadu, South India. Despite corporate promises and a range of well-meaning initiatives, workers, mostly very young women, continue to suffer exploitative working conditions. Up until today, thousands of women in the garment and textile industry in Tamil Nadu work under recruitment and employment schemes that amount to bonded labour. These are the findings by the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) presented in the report “Maid in India” (0.9 mB) , published April 25, 2012.

5-4-2014:
International garment brands not transparent about labour exploitation by their Indian suppliers: report (Down to Earth)
An international organisation working for welfare of workers has drawn attention to the hazardous and exploitative working conditions of young girls working for the garment sector in Tamil Nadu.
An estimated 100,000 children and teenage girls are working in extremely oppressive conditions in the spinning mills and garment factories in Tamil Nadu, according to a report released by FNV Mondiaal (international department of Dutch trade union confederation) and the India Committee of the Netherlands. Most of the girls belong to dalit communities and live in hostels, with little freedom of movement.
4-4-2014:
Garment brands not transparent on tackling bonded labour in India (FNV Mondiaal/ICN)
Most Dutch and international companies importing garments from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu refuse to be transparent about if and how they tackle bonded labour at their suppliers. An estimated 100,000 young children and teenage girls are victims of 'bonded labour' or 'modern slavery'. These girls – mostly Dalit ('outcaste’) – live in hostels, with little freedom of movement, underpaid for long working-days and working under unhealthy conditions.
This is an important conclusion of the paper Small Steps, Big Challenges - Update on (tackling) exploitation of girls and young women in the garment supply chain of South India that FNV Mondiaal (international department of Dutch trade union confederation) and the India Committee of the Netherlands have just published. The report discusses the current situation in Tamil Nadu, the limited improvements after previous reports and the responses of 21 Dutch and international garment brands on the question of what they do to combat the abuses. It also discusses the activities of various joint initiatives by companies and other organisations.
29-11-2013:
I Tried to See Where My T-Shirt Was Made, and the Factory Sent Thugs After Me (MotherJones.com)
After meeting India's "sumangali girls," I'll never look at cute, cheap clothes the same way again.
28-11-2013:
Motion Member of Parliament Voordewind (ChristianUnion) c.s. for broad agreement in co-operation with the Dutch garment industry for high-risk countries
16-10-2013:
47 young labourers rescued from spinning mill in Erode (The Hindu)
Forty-seven young labourers, including 24 from Chhattisgarh and 12 from Assam, most of them girls, were rescued from bondage in P.V. Spinning Mill at Vinnapalli village near Sathyamangalam in Erode district by a team of officials on Monday night. The remaining 11 workers are all girls belonging to various parts of Tamil Nadu.
(See also video on YouTube : Sumangali girls rescued at Sathyamangalam (TN) (15-10-2013))
Sep 2013:
Fact Sheet Forced Labour: Focus on the role of buying companies (SOMO)
Nobody should be forced to work against their will. Any form of forced labour is a grave violation of human rights. However, in many parts of the world men, women and children are trapped in jobs that they were forced into by coercion or deception. Often, they cannot leave these jobs.
This fact sheet is about forced labour in the textile and garment supply chain. It offers examples of different types of forced and bonded labour. Recommendations are made for garment buying companies to recognise cases of forced labour in their supply chains and to act upon these practices.
9-6-2013:
India’s textile hub Tirupur less likely to witness a garment factory collapse like Bangladesh (The Economic Times)
Tirupur, India's foremost textile hub located close to Coimbatore, has been nervously following Bangladesh in recent years. That started when India's eastern neighbour, what with its duty-free access to Western markets and cheap labour, started snatching prime business away from Tirupur.
2-4-2013:
Child labour in the Indian textile industry: Rescue of Sumangali Girls.
5-3-2013:
Time for transparency in the garment industry (SOMO/ICN)
It is difficult to find out where exactly clothing brands source their products. Although, according to international guidelines, enterprises have to map their supply chain and make this information accessible to stakeholders, most companies simply do not come forward with this kind of information. SOMO and ICN elaborate on why the garment industry has to become more transparent.
Mar 2013:
Time for Transparency: The case of the Tamil Nadu textile and garment industry (SOMO/ICN)
This paper argues in favour of enhanced transparency in the global garment supply chain. Building on recent work on the appalling employment and labour conditions in the Tamil Nadu (India) textile and garment industry, the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) build the case for substantial supply chain transparency.
10-2-2013:
Petition to recommend Honourable Chief Minister for releasing Solatium of Rs 3 lakhs for the family of the deceased Mrs. G.Kayalvizhi, textile mill worker, by Tirupur People's Forum for Protection of Environment & Labour Rights, to District Collector, Erode, Tamil Nadu
4-2-2013:
Tailored for Tyranny (FountainInk.in)
Tirupur is India’s knitwear district, a small town in Tamil Nadu that exports garments worth thousands of crores every year. But success is built on a systematic exploitation of workers who are treated as bonded labour, not paid minimum wages and made to work inhuman hours to produce the brands that everyone wears.
Dec 2012:
Annual Report READ 2011-2012 (READ)
including fighting child labour of Dalit girls caught by the Sumangali Scheme
22-10-2012:
138 bonded (child) labourers found working in spinning mills in Tamil Nadu - But Indian garment industry claims to be free of child labour
On Monday 15 October 2012 Tamil Nadu government officials raided a spinning mill in Erode district in Tamil Nadu and rescued 77 bonded (child) labourers of which 14 were younger then the legal minimum age to work in a factory, which is 14 years. However, engaging children up to 18 under hazardous work or against their will is also a violation of the Indian law.
21-10-2012:
Sumangali Scheme (SAVE)
Short film (26 min.) about bonded (child) labour in the South Indian garment industry.
11-10-2012:
Employment or Exploitation: Are suppliers to retailers like Walmart, Carrefour sweatshops? (The Economic Times)
It isn't often that the biggest rivals in the world of retail - Walmart and Carrefour - find themselves on the same side of a negotiations table.
That they did so one afternoon early last month at the old-wordly headquarters of the Southern India Mills' Association, a body of yarnmakers based in Coimbatore that accounts for half of India's yarn exports, is a pointer to the heady challenge facing them and the mills.
9-10-2012:
Questions to the President of the European Council by EP Peter van Dalen (Christian Union) on bonded (child) labour of Dalit girls in garment production in EU-based companies (follow-up to questions Jun 14, 2012)
28-9-2012:
Students join campaign against exploitation of poor girls (The Hindu)
The ongoing campaign against ‘Sumangali Scheme,’ which is being followed by many textile and spinning units in the western districts of Tamil Nadu that has ruined the health of a few hundreds girls from southern districts, gained significant momentum on Thursday with college students joining hands with the organisations fighting against this system.
18-9-2012:
Working in India’s Textile Mills and the Sumangali Scheme (TheWorld.org)
Indian textile mills increasingly rely on young women and girls for labor. Many of the young female workers sign contracts known as the Sumangali scheme. The mills withhold part of their paychecks and then give them a lump sum for a dowry four years later. But if the workers leave before the four years are up, they lose all of the money. Michael May has the story.
16-9-2012:
As pressure builds up, TN mills rectify conditions: Netherlands' Campaigners Expose Sumangali Scheme in SA8000 Certified Mills (Textile Excellence)
In yet another international report, the 'exploitive', 'abusive' and 'inhuman' labor practices prevalent in the Indian textile industry has been highlighted. But SOMO and ICN report has also accentuated, how, right under governments' nose, an institutionalized dowry 'scheme' ran
Sep 2012:
"Fabrikarbeit ist wie Gymnastik" (Südlink: INKOTA-Dossier)
Die Bekleidungsindustrie lockt Hunderttausends indische Mädchen mit schönen Versprechungen in eine Sklaverei auf Zeit
8-8-2012:
Answers to Questions in European Parliament (subm. Jun 14, 2012) on bonded (child) labour of Dalit girls in garment production of EU-based companies
1-8-2012:
‘Maid in India’ - Shocking Findings (GroundReport.com)
20-7-2012:
Report cites ‘major labour abuses’ in textile sector (The Hindu)
18-7-2012:
Press release 'Bonded (child) labour in Indian garment industry draws global attention' (SOMO/ICN)
17-7-2012:
Bonded (child) labour in the South Indian Garment Industry (BahujanIndia.in)
Jul 2012:
Bonded (child) labour in the South Indian Garment Industry: An Update of Debate and Action on the 'Sumangali Scheme' (SOMO/ICN)
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. 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 Scheme’, that is fuelled by the findings and recommendations of the SOMO and ICN reports.
21-6-2012:
Tamil Nadu ‘source’ of sex trafficking: US (The Asian Age)
The US has accused India of being a “source, destination and transit country” for forced labour and sex trafficking. An official report released by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton refers to the Sumangali scheme in TN, in which employers pay young women a lump sum to be used for dowry at the end of a three-year term.
21-6-2012:
Tamil Nadu Programme update - Supporting young women workers in the textile and garment sector of Tamil Nadu, India (Ethical Trading Initiative)
Textile and garment manufacturing and production in Tamil Nadu, India, has grown exponentially since the 1980s and now exports globally. An estimated 500,000 people work in the region’s textile and garment industry and women workers are estimated to be about 60% of the workforce, mostly in unskilled or semi-skilled jobs.
Reports by non-governmental organisations such as the India-based Social Awareness and Voluntary Education (SAVE) and Centre for Education and Communication (CEC), the Dutch Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and Anti-Slavery International (ASI) brought to light concerns about labour practices in the region's garment industry, centred around Tirupur. Concerns have been expressed about these practices, particularly for vulnerable migrant workers in schemes known locally as Sumangali or Camp-Coolie.
21-6-2012:
Verdammt hoher Preis - Billigmode und die Selbstmordrate bei indischen Arbeiterinnen (Monitor/ARD)
14-6-2012:
Questions European Parliament on the subject of bonded (child) labour of Dalit gils in garment production of EU-based companies.
1-6-2012:
Slavery On The High Street (Anti-Slavery International)
New research from Anti-Slavery International exposes how top UK high street brands are selling clothing made by girls in slavery in southern India.
You can download the report in the PDF format here, or read the press release.
1-6-2012:
The price of cheap clothes? (BBC Radio 4)
A report by Anti-Slavery International claims that Indian textile firms, which supply some of Britain's biggest high street retailers, are operating near slave labour conditions.
31-5-2012:
Caste Off (Good.is)
One day in 2007, a stranger came to JJ Nagar village in South India’s Tamil Nadu state, promising girls from the village a chance to change their lives. The man went from house to house offering to sign up any girl over 14 to a three-year term in a yarn factory. At the end of the period, the young women would earn bonuses of $800 (about a year’s salary), an almost unimaginable sum for a girl from JJ Nagar. The village is a six-hour drive from Coimbatore, the state’s second-largest city, but the prosperity of the new India and its almost double-digit growth rate hasn’t arrived here.
8-5-2012:
Understanding the Sumangali Scheme in Tamil Nadu's Textile & Garment Industry (Fair Labor Association)
In May 2012, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and Solidaridad-South & South East Asia released a research report on the Sumangali Scheme - the practice of paying young women a lump sum to be used for a dowry at the end of a three-year term. Written by Solidaridad with support from the FLA, this report provides an overview of the Sumangali Scheme, presents stakeholder views, and offers the perspectives of some of the women and their families who are affected by this practice.
1-5-2012:
India’s Dalit women and the real cost of fast fashion (Women's Views On News)
May(?) 2012:
"Maid in India" - Sklavinnenarbeit heute kfb-Partnerorganisation kämpft gegen ausbeuterische Arbeitsbedingungen (Katholische Frauenbewegung Österreichs)
30-4-2012:
Dalit women exploited in garment supply chain (Just-Style.com)
27-4-2012:
Dutch Parliament adopts motion on full supply-chain transparency (Hivos/Stop Child Labour)
27-4-2012:
Saga of ‘Maid in India' (The Hindu)
26-4-2012:
BSCI responds to Sumangali report Maid in India (BSCI)
25-4-2012:
Motion Dutch Parliament on full supply-chain transparency and the eradication of child labour in the textile chain

  • Apr 2012: 'Maid in India - Young Dalit Women Continue to Suffer Exploitative Conditions in India’s Garment Industry' (SOMO / ICN)
  • 25-4-2012: Media release 'Young Dalit women exploited in Indian garment industry' (SOMO / ICN)



  • Captured by Cotton

    Exploited Dalit Girls Produce Garments in India for European and US Markets

    Big garment brands and retailers have their products made under exploitative and unhealthy conditions by girls in Tamil Nadu, South India. The girls, mostly younger than 18 and from a Dalit background are employed under the Sumangali Scheme. In its worst form, this employment scheme stands for bonded labour, as described in ‘Captured by Cotton’ (1.6 mB) , a report published by SOMO and ICN.
    The report features case studies of four large manufacturers: Eastman Global Clothing Exports, KPR Mill, Bannari Amman, and SSM India. These enterprises produce for Bestseller (e.g. Only, Jack & Jones), C&A, GAP, Diesel, Inditex (e.g. Zara), Marks & Spencer, Primark, Tommy Hilfiger, and many other European and US garment companies. A number of companies have undertaken steps towards the elimination of the Sumangali Scheme, but abusive labour practices remain widespread.

  • May 2011: 'Captured by Cotton - Exploited Dalit girls produce garments in India for European and US markets' (SOMO / ICN)
  • 20-5-2011: Media release 'Exploited Dalit Girls Produce Garments in India for European and US Markets' (SOMO / ICN)
  • 7-4-2012:
    NHRC Notice on Sumangali Scheme (Express News Service)
    28-3-2012:
    Das Schicksal der Lohnsklavinnen - Billigmode aus Indien (ZDF)
    8-3-2012:
    Exploitation continues at garment hub (The Hindu)
    5-3-2012:
    Press release 'Still 'Captured by Cotton'? Despite some improvements, problems persist in the garment supply chain' (SOMO / ICN)
    5-3-2012:
    Dalits still working in bonded labour in the cotton industry despite some improvements, new report finds (IDSN.org)
    5-3-2012:
    Still ‘Captured by cotton’? Despite some improvements, problems persist in the garment supply chain (CorporateJustice.org)
    Mar 2012:
    Still 'Captured by Cotton'? Update on exploitation of women workers in the garment industry in Tamil Nadu, South India (SOMO / ICN)
    10-1-2012:
    Wobbly ground beneath her feet: State of women workers in cotton mills of Tamilnadu (GoI Monitor)
    20-12-2011:
    Response of MNC Retailers to SOMO/ICN/CASS Report on the Sumangali Scheme (NewClothMarketOnline.com)
    Nov 2011:
    Ausbeutung trotz Öko-Standards in Indien: Der schwierige Weg zur Fairness (terrafair)
    15-9-2011:
    UK fashion retailers struggle with 'bonded' girl labour in India (The Ecologist)
    Jun 2011:
    Captured by cotton (InfoChangeIndia.com) [excerpts from the report Captured by Cotton]
    Jun(?) 2011:
    Slavery or Sumangali? Exploitation of Dalit Girls Exposed (Im4Change)
    31-5-2011:
    Indian girls captured by cotton in Tamil Nadu factories (Radio Netherlands Worldwide)
    29-5-2011:
    Slaving for their dowry (The Hindu)
    21-5-2011:
    Captured by Cotton - A Story of Dalit Girls of Tamil Nadu (GroundReport.com/Ummid.com)
    21-5-2011:
    Worst forms of child labour in garment sector, SOMO-ICN report (Fibre2Fashion.com)
    19-5-2011:
    Dalit girls working under slave like conditions in India's garment industry (IDSN.org)
    18-5-2011:
    Eliminating forced labour in South India - Statement on Sumangali Scheme (Fair Wear Foundation)



    India Committee of the Netherlands - April 4, 2014