Under RTI-type rule, India asks US why defame on child labour | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Under RTI-type rule, India asks US why defame on child labour

Upset over being branded as a child labour employer, India's apparel export body AEPC has sought access to key documents of the US Labour Department which were used to "defame" the Indian industry.

delhi Updated: Aug 15, 2010 10:49 IST

Upset over being branded as a child labour employer, India's apparel export body AEPC has sought access to key documents of the US Labour Department which were used to "defame" the Indian industry.

The access to these documents has been sought under 'Freedom of Information Act' - equivalent to India's Right to Information Act - by the Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC).

AEPC is an industry body sponsored by the Textiles Ministry.

"Requests to immediate access to the documents, which were denied by the US Labour Department have been made, in line with the America's policy of transparency and openness and in the interest of fairness and due process," a high-level industry source said.

Besides, a high AEPC delegation, led by a Joint Secretary in the Textile Ministry, would be in Washington between August 18 and 20 and meet officials in the US departments of Labour and Commerce to give them the factual position.

Faced with the threat of being labelled as child labour employer for the second year in a row, the AEPC with the financial help from the Textile Ministry has hired Washington-based lobbying firm, Sidley Austin to work extensively with the US authorities.

In the last review of September 2009, India was put on the Executive Order 13126 List (EOL) and Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorisation (TVPRA) list of the US Labour Department - meaning thereby that it allows child labour.

According to the US assessment, the children were employed in embroidery and zari work for apparel making.

The next review is due in September and hence, the AEPC and the Textile Ministry is making last-ditch efforts to get off the hook on this count, an official said.

"It was inappropriate for the Department of Labour to issue a final determination... without providing the AEPC with the opportunity to review and respond to all the allegations," he said.

"While the private stores in the US are not under any obligation to stop buying from Indian manufacturers, it is a question of our reputation among large retail chains like WalMart, JC Penny, GAP and Diesel," a Textile Ministry official said.

AEPC along with the government has been taking several steps to curb employment of children in work places. The exporters body has also commissioned a study to get the actual factual position.

In 2009 (calendar year), the US accounted for about 30 per cent of India's total apparel export worth $10 billion.