Fri. Sep 24th, 2021
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Kewal Krishan Sethi

Rugmark is an NGO that claims to fight against child labour in carpet industry. Kailash Satyarthi is on its board of directors. Rugmark, in its publicity, says that nine out of ten carpets that do not carry rugmark label are touched by the hands of child slaves. Rugmark has the backing of Oxfam, Christian aid and other British NGOs

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Mark Tully’s interview with Kailash Satyarthi sometime in year 2000 or 2001.
M (Mark Tully) – I put it to you that it was outrageous to suggest that nine out of ten carpets which do not have Rugmark labels were made by children.
S (Kailash Satyarthi) – No, the figure is not correct. i don’t believe it at all.
M – Figures of 3,00,000 is mentioned as child slaves in the carpet industry.
S – The figure is based on research done in the eighties. The figures thrown up by recent research were much lower. I do not believe there has been any good survey on the carpet industry so far in India.
M – All the evidence we have come across suggests improvement in the situation since the eighties.
S – I agree.
M – Why is the figure of 3,00,00 still being used by you.
S – (with hesitation) It is based on some assumption. For instance the number of looms and the assumption that at least two children are working on each loom. That makes more than three lakhs.
M – What evidence do you have?
S – There were some studies. (evades direct answer)
M – When we came in, we were given a publication written by you. On the back page is a long article “About the Author”. You have been described as ‘India’s lodestar for the abolition of child labour’ in a book released by President Clinton. Does it worry you that there is too much attention in you.
S – In the global march against child labour, there has been lot of attention on many others.
M – But in your own publication, you are described as a lone figure.
S – (apologetically) It is not my article. It is an old booklet too and I promise you I will remove the article in the next edition.
M – In the same article, India, your country, has been described as dominated by politics of opportunism and riven by communalism and caste warfare.
S – No, I don’t believe that either. In fact india is the only country which has done a great deal to find answers to the problem of child labour.
M – But in all the publicity this message does not come through.
S – Perhaps not. All the positive things which are happening in India or elsewhere should be highlighted.

This interview brings out a person who is not shy to use incorrect figures to project himself as the saviour of child labour, even at the cost of truth.

Reference – India in slow motion – Mark Tully – Penguin Books – 2002 – page 58-60)

This write-up that quotes Mark Tully’s interview with Kailash Satyarthi and exposes a lot was originally published by the author Kewal Krishan Sethi on his facebook page “Meri Bhi Suno”. Newsroom24x7 is republishing it. The author has retired as an upright and highly respected bureaucrat – a 1963 batch IAS officer borne on the Madhya Pradesh cadre. He has had an illustrious career. He was Chairman Board of Revenue Madhya Pradesh, Chief Secretary Manipur, and head of the National Commission for Linguistic Minorities (NCLM). 

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