NEW DELHI — The Indian children reportedly found making clothes for Gap Inc. should be reunited with their families and compensated by the government, activists said Monday amid a spreading scandal about the use of child labor by the international clothing chain.
The reported discovery of children as young as 10 sewing clothes for clothing retailer Gap Inc. in a New Delhi factory has renewed concerns about child labor in India, but government officials offered no comment Monday.
“The biggest responsibility here lies with the Indian government — they don’t develop a way of monitoring” factories, said Bhuwan Ribhu, a lawyer who works with Bachpan Bachao Andolan, or the Save Childhood Movement.
“International companies hire subcontractors and then forget about it. There is no monitoring at all,” Ribhu added. “Where the Gap is concerned, at least they’ve taken a good pro-active stand against the subcontractors.”
Britain’s Observer newspaper on Sunday reported that it had found children making clothes with Gap labels in a squalid factory in New Delhi. It quoted the children as saying they were from poor parts of India and had been sold to the sweatshop by their impoverished families. Some said they were not paid for their work.
Gap responded quickly, saying the factory was being run by a subcontractor who was hired in violation of Gap’s policies, and none of the products made there will be sold in its stores.
“We appreciate that the media identified this subcontractor, and we acted swiftly in this situation,” Gap spokesman Bill Chandler told The Associated Press on Sunday. “Under no circumstances is it acceptable for children to produce or work on garments.”
Child labor remains a widespread problem in India, despite the country’s economic boom and its growing wealth.
The government has repeatedly tried to ban the use of child workers — in 1986 outlawing them from working in dangerous industries, such as glassmaking, and last year banning them being employed as domestic servants or in restaurants.
But the prohibitions have had only a minimal impact and children’s rights activists estimate that 13 million children are still working in India, with many being used in labor-intensive businesses like carpet-weaving and in dangerous industries, such as making fire crackers.
Chandler said Gap requires its suppliers to guarantee that they will not use child labor to produce garments. Gap stopped working with 23 factories last year over violations uncovered by its inspectors.
The San Francisco-based company has 90 full-time inspectors who make unannounced visits around the world to ensure vendors are abiding by Gap’s guidelines, he said.
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