Indian children adding more blood to tainted diamonds?
Leonardo di Caprio may well be nominated for the Oscar for his role as the South African diamond smuggler in ‘Blood Diamond’, a film attempting to lay bare the thriving international trade in conflict diamonds that fuels wars and conflicts in several part of Africa. The movie, supported by Global Witness and Amnesty International, opened in India a few weeks ago and is showing in glittering multiplexes in the heart of Mumbai, just around the corner from the diamond markets of this bustling ‘financiapolis’ of India.
Over 90% of the world’s rough diamonds pass through these markets on their journey to Surat, the biggest small-diamond processing centre in the world 326 kms by road from the city. A Guardian Observer investigation alleges that ‘blood diamonds’ from Ivory Coast and Liberia are being illegally processed here.
According to the article, “The stones brought in by dhows and fishing boats through the shallow waters of Gujarat’s ungovernable west coast make a laughing stock of attempts to stem the global flow of blood diamonds.” The Kimberly Process, set up by diamond merchants, NGOs, governments and the UN in 2003 governs, albeit loosely the trade in diamonds and should help prevent the use of diamonds to fuel conflicts.
But the Kimberly process does not make any mention of child labour that is reported to be so prevalent in Surat, adding more blood the already tainted stones. Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Children Foundation) alleges that over 30,000 children are stuck in this trade in Dickensian conditions. These claims are stoutly denied by the industry.
And why not? Reports [1, 2] allege that over the years the diamond cutting industry has resisted unionisation or bringing itself under the purview of the Indian Factory Act that promised minimum wages and benefits for its workers. This is done by keeping the number of workers in each unit under nine (the legal limit requiring registration under the Act) and registering hundreds of small units. And it is in these units that the children are lost without a trace.
Diamond cutting is on the top of the list of ‘hazardous work’ that the law prohibits children from work in. And these are the children who sweat and toil, losing out on their childhood to add small value the ‘bling, bling’ that is the fad. The Kimberly process is meeting at this time to review the working of the ban.
Would they stop to consider for a moment the children in Surat, who are churning out these diamonds, paying with their own blood?