Indian waste pickers are struggling to obtain information or equipment to inform and protect them during the coronavirus pandemic. Thomson Reuters has run this article by IDSN Ambassador Aidan McQuade and IDSN’s Ritwajit Das, looking at the current challenges faced by Dalit waste pickers in India. While this article looks at India, similar situations are found in other South Asian countries.
Manjula Pradeep, human rights activist and founder of Wayve Foundation on caste and women's labour speaks about the unique situtation of Dalit women in relation to labour and modern slavery.
DSN leaves its mark on the UN Business and human rights forum with a very popular stand, highlighting the links between caste and human rights violations in global supply chains. At the stand Dalit human rights defender Ankita Paudel from IDSN member organization, Feminist Dalit Organisation – Nepal (FEDO), and IDSN staff, spoke with participants to improve their understanding and urge them to take action. Ms. Paudel also took part in key events at the forum and made connections with other relevant stakeholders. The IDSN Director, Meena Varma, also gave a snapshot presentation on what Governments can do to start addressing these issues with businesses and IDSN Ambassador, Gerard Oonk, made important new connections and raised awareness of key stakeholders.
Human rights issues related to caste in global supply chains was a key theme at the seminar on vulnerable workers, held in Copenhagen on 12 November, organised by IDSN, the Danish Ethical Trading Initiative (DIEH) and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) in the UK. ETI Director, Peter McAllister launched the ETI Caste in Global Supply Chains guidance at the seminar saying. “I am proud and honoured to be here to launch the ETI Base Code Guidance on Caste in Global Supply Chains today … caste underpins so many elements of vulnerability that we must engage with caste issues if we want to address vulnerability,” Mr. McCallister stated.
Henri Tiphagne, member of the IDSN board, represented IDSN in the Global Consultation on National Human Rights Institutions and access to remedy (Project on the Role of NHRIs in facilitating access to remedy for business-related human rights abuses), on the 10 and 11 October. This consultation is part of an ongoing project of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) about accountability for human rights. violations and abuses committed by corporations.
A new report by Homeworkers Worldwide finds Dalit women working in global leather supply chains being subjected to discrimination, insecure work, low wages and labour rights abuses, including sexual harassment.
IDSN has contributed to the UN Human Rights Council’s 42nd Session with two joint statements with Minority Rights Group International (MRG) on slavery and on safe drinking water and sanitation. IDSN also issued specific recommendations aimed at states and circulated by IDSN.
Press Release – Ethical Trading Initiative – UK - Remaining silent about caste discrimination in global supply chains is fueling modern slavery, child labour and the exploitation of workers in South Asia, according to new ETI Base Code guidance for companies published today.
Poverty and caste discrimination mean that children in Sagar Gram are being groomed by their own families for abuse
On April 9-11 IDSN supported the Dakar Consultation on Global Partnership and Joint Actions in Addressing Discrimination based on Work & Descent – DWD, Untouchability, Contemporary Forms of Slavery and Analogous Forms of Discrimination that looked at caste and analogous forms of discrimination across the world to ensure joint actions and strategies to combat this form of discrimination. Information was shared and new initiatives formed and at the end of the consultation a Declaration was published as well as a summary report.
Conducted by leading labour experts at the University of California. Key findings: 99.3% of the workers are either Muslims or belong to a heavily subordinated community, called a “Scheduled Caste.” 99.2% of workers toil in conditions of forced labour under Indian law, which means they do not receive the state stipulated minimum wage. In fact, most workers received between 50% and 90% less than the state-stipulated minimum wages. Only a handful of males working near the city of Jaipur received proper wages for their work. 95.5% of workers are female.
An extensive study on home-based garment workers in India found 99 per cent of workers toiled in conditions of forced labor under Indian law, with over 99 per cent of the workers found to be either Dalits or Muslims. The prevalence of child labour was over 15 per cent and many cases of bonded labour were also documented. 85 per cent of the workers supplied global brands.The report “Tainted Garments: The Exploitation of Women and Girls in India’s Home-based Garment Sector” was conducted by leading labour experts at the University of California.
Most of India's trafficking problem is internal, and those from the most disadvantaged social strata – lowest caste Dalits, members of tribal communities, religious minorities, and women and girls from excluded groups – are most vulnerable. Within India, some are subjected to forced labor in sectors such as construction, steel, garment, and textile industries, wire manufacturing for underground cables, biscuit factories, pickling, floriculture, fish farms, and ship breaking. Workers within India who mine for sand are potentially vulnerable to human trafficking. Thousands of unregulated work placement agencies reportedly lure adults and children under false promises of employment into sex trafficking or forced labor, including domestic servitude.
Approximately 70 percent of trafficking victims in India belong to Scheduled Castes or Tribes – also called ‘Dalit’ classes – and are among the most disadvantaged socio-economic groups in India.
“The Cost of Cleanliness” is based on the deaths of Dalit workers engaged in cleaning sewers and septic tanks and was release to coincide with the report Justice Denied – Death of workers engaged in manual scavenging by Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan
Report by NGO Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan, looking at the caste inequities underpinning manual scavenging in India and the many Dalits dying while cleaning septic tanks and sewers with no proper equipment. The findings, outlined in this summary, point to an urgent need for action to end this practice. Read the full report here. An event was held to release the report where the documentary “The Cost of Cleanliness” based on the deaths of workers engaged in cleaning sewers and septic tanks was also released.Read the summary of the report findings here.
The European Parliamentary Hearing on contemporary forms of slavery featured a presentation on caste and slavery in the supply chains of global companies by Ramesh Nathan, General Secretary of the National Dalit Movement For Justice-NCDHR, India. Ramesh pointed out the strong correlation between caste and slavery in India and urged the EU to step up action to address this in the supply chains of European companies. Read the IDSN article on the hearing here >>