If little Teesa could read, she would realise that her delicate hands are stitching together a great irony. This nine-year-old girl in Nayi Basti of Meerut in UP is sewing one of the 32 rubber panels, which clearly mentions ‘no child labour used’, on to a half-stitched football for HRS, a local sports company.
Teesa, who lives with her five-year-old brother and an alcoholic grandfather, must complete two balls by the end of the day.
Hers is among the 60-odd homes in this new football-stitching village that came up in the last year, given the increased demand for footballs in the wake of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The men of NB work as labour in the construction industry, while the women and children making the most of the seasonal demand manage to bring in Rs 500-Rs 1,000 a month stitching footballs. The families manage to churn out 8-10 balls a day for which they are paid Rs 4-5 a piece. For export footballs, they are paid Rs 10-15 per ball. If something goes wrong, the contractor extracts Rs 200 from them.
Besides Jalandhar, Meerut is the biggest hub of football supply.
Rajbala, 30, and her daughter Neetu, 15, from Siwal Khas in Meerut have been in this trade for over five years now. They have been mostly stitching footballs for COSCO, a FIFA-approved sports companies in India. COSCO says on its website that no child labour is used. “I haven’t come across any instances of children stitching footballs for us. And we can’t keep checking on what the contractor does,” says COSCO director Col V.K. Sood.
And do the makers know the World Cup is on? “We only get to know something big is happening when the contractor tells us to churn out more balls,” says Anita, 35, from Nayi Basti.