Though the International Labour Organisation had recently reported the prevalence of child labour in the diamond industry, sector players in Gujarat have condemned the allegations.
The ILO report claims that child labour is highly prevalent in the Indian diamond industry, as child labourers constitute nearly three per cent of the total workforce.
It also states that the percentage of child labourers is as high as 25 per cent in the diamond industry of Surat.
"Child labour has never been prevalent in the diamond industry of Surat. The percentage of child labourers, if any, is negligible. Diamonds are costly and if one employs a child labourer, it would mean risking lakhs of rupees, as they could easily be lost or broken while cutting or polishing," said Pravin Nanavati, a Surat-based diamond businessman.
"Around 8-10 years back, some western countries deliberately created the impression that child labour is prevalent in the Indian diamond industry, and called for it's boycott. The only aim of these nations was to monopolise in the sector," he said.
"Nonetheless, in the wake of these allegations, the Central government and the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council conducted a survey. While western countries claimed that child labourers constitute 40-50 per cent of the total work-force, the survey puts the figure at less than two per cent. This figure has further reduced and is almost zero today due to strict implementation of labour laws," Nanavati said.
He, however, refused to be drawn into a controversy over the ILO report. "I do not want to make any allegations against the ILO, but I would like to say that such reports should be based on actual facts," he said.
The diamond industry also found support from the South Gujarat Diamond Workers Association."While child labour is highly prevalent in the construction and hotel industries, there are few child labourers in the diamond industry of Surat. Our surveys have put the figure at less than one per cent. We believe this is mainly because of stern punishments and penalties for violation of child labour laws," the association secretary Mohan Dhabuwala said.