Juveniles pack famous Surti saris for a pittance

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July 05, 2015 SURAT: Next time you open a box containing an exquisite sari from Surat, think of juveniles. It is in the country's largest man-made fabric (MMF) wholesale market here, these juvenile labourers work tirelessly folding and packing saris in printed boxes. For packing one sari, these juveniles are paid less than Rs 3.

Shailesh (name changed), a 15-year-old boy hailing from Dholpur in Rajasthan, is among the 10 child labourers who was rescued by the labour department on Friday. He was brought by a contractor who promised his poor parents monthly payment of Rs 4,000 to him. In Surat, Shailesh was kept with other children at rented premises in Limbayat. He would have to walk down more than 4km from his residence to reach the textile market in the morning.

At the market, he would be given the stock of saris along with packaging box and other materials. In a day, he would fold and pack around 100 saris.

"I was packing the maximum saris to earn more money," says Shailesh sitting with other rescued children who were kept at the Juvenile Home in Katargam. "The contractor would give me Rs 20 as pocket money on Sunday. The rest he would send to my parents through money order every month. My father works with a stone quary and the money he earns is not enough for our family of five."

There are hundreds of juvenile sari packers like Shailesh.

Surat labour department sources said it is a tough task to conduct survey in a city that has more than 165 textile markets and more than 60,000 textile shops. The contractors bring child labourers from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to work in the textile markets, jardoshi units and restaurants. Most of the child workers are employed in the textile markets and their numbers could be more than 5,000.

Since January 2015, the labour department has rescued at least 25 child labourers from different textile markets.

"These juveniles are trained in folding and packing the saris. They are made to sit in the lobby of the textile markets with a pile of sari and packaging boxes and have to work for nine hours at a stretch. The contractors deploy the child labourers at various markets on rotation basis. These children are provided with shelter and food by the contractors," said assistant labour commissioner Ashish Gandhi.

Gandhi said, "An awareness programme on child labourers was organized last week with leaders of textile traders association. A similar awareness programme will organized next week where we are going to urge the leaders to form private teams to conduct survey and curb illegal child labour business in the markets."

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