NEW DELHI - The sparkle in the make up box that you dab on just before going to a party is the result of the hard labour of a child who, in all probability, had spent hours in the scorching heat looking for shining pieces of mica in the soil. This in turn is used in the cosmetic industry.
After garments, sports goods, accessories and ornaments, it’s the cosmetics industry that is the latest employer of child labour, especially in places like Jharkhand and Bihar, according to a child rights NGO.
Bhuwan Ribhu, national secretary of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) said that children, as young as six and eight toil away in the mica mines in Jharkhand and Bihar, collecting mica for export all over the world in the cosmetics industry.
Thousands of children are involved in illegal collection of mica from the soil, which is being exported to major brands including Merck KGaA, the German based pharmaceutical company, which further supplies this mica to some of the biggest names in the cosmetics industry, he said.
There are more than 5,000 children involved in mica collection in the area. Since mica is right there in the soil, the opportunity to make easy money was more appealing to children and their parents than education.
However over a period of time, people are beginning to understand that poverty can not be seen as a reason for childrens exploitation and exposing the children to health and safety hazards like skin and respiratory diseases. Yet, a lot of effort is required from the government, since NGOs can only do so much, Ribhu said.
Districts like Giridih and Koderma in Jharkhand and Nawadah in Bihar are the worst hit in this case.
International corporations need to do more work and take up more responsibility in their supply chain. Leaving an area or changing one supplier after child labour is found is not the solution. Corporations must ensure that their profits are not made at the cost of children and should work towards elimination of child labour, he added.