World Day Against Child Labour 2019 is observed to raise awareness about the plight of child labourers worldwide. The particular day singled out for ‘children’ who give up their ‘dreams’ to bring about meagre livelihood for the family is an everyday struggle where, forget ‘The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act (RTE) of August 2009, the right to be 'children' is but limitted just, to a dream.
Mica, which can be found in almost every beauty item\cosmetics has one of the most overwhelming supply from India. The mineral that is used to give the sheen, the highlight, the gloss and glitter hides one of the ugliest and darkest secrets, secrets that are at the cost of the future and lives of some children as young as four or five years old toiling somewhere is the hilly forests of rural Jharkhand, hammering flakes of rock off the mountainside while others mostly girls carry baskets of rocks to the top of the mine to sort through their contents.
Carrying thier livelihood at the toil of the basket and sweat, the mineral is then extracted by separating the glittering fragments (mica) from the rock debris to be given out to the beauty industry. And while Mica can be found in China, Russia, Finland, the U.S. and even in Canada, India remains one of the biggest sources of Mica supply. In fact, a study suggests that a quarter of the world’s mica comes from the eastern Indian states of Jharkand and Bihar, where more than 22,000 children work in mica mine which are illegal and unregulated. This type of utter lawlessness hence only ups the chart for more child kidnapping and child endangerment. And though the law on child labour provides for stringent punishment for certain crimes, the conviction rate remains extremely low.
And even more than a decade after cosmetics suppliers were alerted of its predicament, with leading reports from The Guardian, British Vogue, linking the shimmery substance to child labour, child labour in mica mines remains as prevalent as ever.
Marie Claire also reported that India's mica belt is among the poorest regions in the country and has high rates of illiteracy and unemployment. While most children are forced to the mines because of the lack of basic lives amenities and to make ends meet, reports of dangerous health conditions such as respiratory conditions like asthma, silicosis, and tuberculosis only adds more weight to the unimageable toil. A 2016 report by the Thomson Reuters Foundation found that seven children had been smothered to death in mica mines in the span of just two months.
The International Labour Organisation under World Day Against Child Labour this year made the theme, as 'Children shouldn’t work in fields, but on dreams!', but when this theme is what is should be rather than must be, what do we do to better the predicament, are we as consumers of beauty products contributing to the rising rates of child labour?