Back to Common Ground Archive



Air Date: February 6, 1996
Program 9606


INDIAN RUG WEAVERS; ATLANTA 1996


Guests:

Various residents of India

Bill Campbell, Mayor of Atlanta

Various residents of Atlanta

INDIAN RUG WEAVERS


JEFF MARTIN: This is Common Ground.

INDIAN RUG MERCHANT: A rug like this has to be made with mature hands. Maybe in Mirzapur
or Bhadoui there might be child labor, well child labor in the sense they might be helping them,
bringing them something or the other, but not really making the carpets, because this is mature
work. It has to be someone with 30 or 40 years of experience that can do this kind of a job.

HARI MALAVIA: It is not possible to say whether child labor is used in the carpet weaving
according to the quality or the construction of the carpet. It is not at all possible.

MARTIN: In this edition of Common Ground, handwoven rugs from Asia and the Middle
East. They’re beautiful, but they’re also made with the labor of children. Consumers in the
United States and Europe are demanding an end to the child labor. Are their efforts paying off?
We have a report from India.

RAM DHANI: The government isn’t really taking any action about this. If government wants
to stop child labor in the carpet industry, they could do it in one month.

MARTIN: And then later in the program, the Olympics are coming to Atlanta this summer.

BILL CAMPBELL: It’s going to be the largest gathering of nations in the history of the
world. Over 200 countries will come to these ceremonies.

MARTIN: Common Ground is a program on world affairs and the people who shape
events. It is produced by the Stanley Foundation. I’m Jeff Martin.

In the Middle East and Asia, millions of children are illegally employed making carpets. Many
suffer permanent eye and muscle damage as a result of working in dark, cramped conditions for
12-hour days. This has caused consumers in Germany, the United States, and elsewhere to demand an
end to such practices. As Reese Erlich reports, carpet manufacturers in India are feeling the
heat. He begins the story in New Delhi.

SUNJAY DAYAL: Hello, sir. Please come in.

REESE ERLICH: Hello. I’d be interested in seeing some carpets.

DAYAL: Sure. We have lots of them. Please have a seat. First of all, it’s Indian
hospitality. What would you like to drink?

ERLICH: Sunjay Dayal welcomes me into his carpet palace with the practiced palaver of a
true rug merchant. He rolls out some carpets.

DAYAL: This is high quality. Every salesman says it’s high quality, but this really is
high quality. In Mirzapun the quality is good. This quality is from 50 knots to a square inch to
120 knots to a square inch. This I would say is 120 knots to a square inch, because we are only
keeping high quality here.

ERLICH: I see. And about how much would this…what would your opening price be on this?

INDIAN: Opening price? I have only one price. I’ve got the best prices in town. Nobody
can compete with me at the moment.

ERLICH: When I asked about the use of child labor in making these carpets, Dayal has a
standard answer.

DAYAL: About four out of ten people ask me whether we have used child labor, and we
obviously say no. Well, it’s a fact. It is also a fact, because a rug like this has to be made
with mature hands. Maybe in Mirzapur or Bhadoui there might be child labor. Child labor in the
sense they might be helping them, bringing them something or the other. But not really making the
carpets, because this is mature work. The knots, it has to be a person who has had 30 or 40 years
of experience can only do this kind of a job.

MALAVIA: It is not possible to say whether the child labor is used in the carpet weaving
according to the quality or the construction of the carpet. It’s not at all possible.

ERLICH: Hari Malavia is an agent for some of the world’s largest carpet importers. He
has over 20 years of experience in the business.

MALAVIA: Nobody can give the guarantee that child labor has been used in the carpet or
not. It’s not possible at all. Because the carpets are manufactured in the remote villages. It’s
a cottage industry. When the parents are using their children to help them, nobody can control
it.

ERLICH: Child advocacy groups estimate that 300,000 children still make carpets in
India. Some work at home with their parents much like the children of peasant farmers, others are
illegally employed in small workshops and still others are sold into bonded labor and even
chained to the looms. Those children face the worst conditions, slaving for 12 hours a day, seven
days a week without any wages. But not all the workshops are that bad.

Here in the Bhadoui district, several hundred miles southeast of Delhi, a young man sings while
he weaves a carpet on an eight-foot-high loom. Six other weavers also labor in this small
workshop. Really nothing more than an enlarged hut. They sit on rough hewn wooden benches, their
bare feet dangling over a dirt floor. They are paid for each rug produced, the equivalent of 12
US dollars for a seven day work week. So it’s not surprising that children work at the looms to
help support the families. But the workshop owner is very sensitive on that issue and rushes the
children outside before I can take their photo.

Do any of these children help with any of the weaving? Any of the people here doing…

LOOM OWNER, SANTALAL DEH: They belong to the family, they are not working here. They’re
not working. They’re all going to school.

ERLICH: Do they help at all after school?

DEH: They go to the school. They don’t work here. And afterwards they do homework.

ERLICH: Mr. Deh also says child labor inspectors from the government have visited his
workshop.

DEH: They come sometimes. There are looms registered, he says. Our looms are inspected.
Sometimes the inspector from the government site comes here to inspect.

ERLICH: When’s the last time someone came?

DEH: Last time was before 1¼ months.

ERLICH: And do they ask about child labor or are they mainly concerned about other
issues?

DEH: They come only to control child labor.

ERLICH: Weaver Rajah Ram sits at a loom in his house in the nearby town of Khamaria
tamping down the knots of his carpet with a large metal comb. He has been a weaver for 45 years,
since the age of 15. So he has a lot of experience with government inspectors. He says most of
them are easily bribed.

RAJAH RAM: If they get a bribe, they say there is no child labor. If the weaver has no
money to pay the bribe, even if the boy is 18 years old, the inspectors puts it into his report
that the boy is 15. How can I prove he is 18? So the inspectors work only for the bribes.

ERLICH: Mr. Ram says there is less child labor now than when he was growing up. Most
weavers would prefer that their children go to school and get a different kind of job.

RAM: The financial pressure keeps the children working on the looms. Parents can’t afford
to send the children to school, because they need them to earn money. It also costs money to send
them to school. Money for the books and uniforms. I can’t even read and write. I have to use my
thumbprint to sign my name. I want my children to go to school. All weavers do.

ERLICH: Mr. Ram says there’s now a lot of international pressure on the carpet industry
not to use child labor. As a direct result, child labor has apparently decreased in the bigger
towns like Khamaria, but it still continues in rural villages far from government inspectors and
international scrutiny. But the carpet industry has tried various schemes to counter the bad
publicity generated by the use of child labor. Some Indian exporters formed a group called
Rugmark, exporters who certify they don’t use child labor are given a special label that is sewn
into each carpet. Unfortunately, there is no mechanism to verify the claim. Even the director of
the Rugmark program can’t certify that his company’s carpets are made without child labor. Ram
Achal Maurya is the director’s brother and co-owner of the Prasad Carpet Emporium.

RAM: My brother is director of Rugmark, and we don’t use any Rugmark labels.

ERLICH: Why?

RAM: Because Rugmark is not doing anything for the children, so we don’t support this
Rugmark program. It is impossible to give the guarantee that no child labor has been used in the
weaving or finishing work. We have people to check the looms where our carpets are woven, whether
child labor has been used or not. Before we give the order, we take from them in writing that
they don’t use any child labor. We send our persons, our inspectors to check the looms whether
child labor is being used or not. If we find child labor, we tell them we won’t give you any work
because you are using child labor. So this way we are trying to control it.

ERLICH: But if someone wants to fool the inspector, they can do that?

RAM: One hundred percent control is impossible. If they wish, they can. We are only
trying. We are trying to control it, that’s all.

ERLICH: Care and Fair is another program set up by the carpet industry in India and
abroad. It doesn’t pretend to certify carpets, but collects donations from the industry in order
to build schools and clinics. Hari Malavia, president of Care and Fair in India and the rug agent
we met earlier says carpet exporters from Germany and importers here in India work together to
offer an alternative.

MALAVIA: Together we are trying to help children in the way that we are opening the
school, giving them free education, giving them food, giving them clothes. For their welfare, we
are giving them free medical help. That way we are trying to create such a situation that
children don’t go to work.

ERLICH: So far Care and Fair has distributed about 275,000 US dollars to charitable
projects. It has opened the school in the Bhadohi district.

MALAVIA: The school is totally financed by the exporters. Their education is free,
children of the weavers. We are trying to give them clothes, we are trying to give them books and
shoes. We have also opened a small clinic for the welfare of the children, if they have become
sick or so we can help them that way also. That clinic is not only for children from the
neighboring area, everybody can come there and get medical help.

ERLICH: Care and Fair has donated money to other projects as well.

Carpet exporter Ram Dhani walks proudly through a small hospital he helped build in the town of
Khamaria. Since early August, it has served about 1,800 patients.

RAM DHANI: Here there is a great deal of poverty. Health care is generally not available
or it is too expensive. With the help of Care and Fair, we’ve been able to open this hospital. It
serves mainly children of the weavers and other poor people from the village. Any kind of poor
people can come here. We even have a modern x-ray machine donated by a big German carpet
importer.

ERLICH: Mr. Dhani admits, however, that such charitable works serve only a fraction of
the population. He says the government should really be doing this work.

DAHNI: If the government was doing its job, it would be setting up more hospitals and
schools. Then there wouldn’t be any child labor. The government isn’t really taking any action
about this. Government officials can crack down on bonded labor, selling the children to
contractors to work on the looms. If government wants to stop child labor in the carpet industry,
they could do it in one month.

ERLICH: But carpet manufacturers aren’t out heavily lobbying the government to build
more schools and crack down on child labor. It’s simple economics. If weavers’ pay is kept low,
carpet exporters profits stay high. Child labor keeps wages low, because adults must compete with
children paid a fraction of their wages. But international outrage at conditions faced by these
children is changing the equation. Complaints from the West have already helped reduce child
labor in the bigger towns. If an independent nonprofit agency were established that could inspect
the carpet workshops in both towns and rural areas, child labor could be drastically cut.
Consumers could feel confident they are buying quality carpets made by legally employed labor,
and ultimately the industry would benefit through greater public confidence and greater sales.
But that won’t happen until the carpet industry feels a great deal more international pressure.

For Common Ground, I’m Reese Erlich.

MARTIN: When Common Ground continues, Atlanta prepares for the summer Olympics.

CAMPBELL: Atlanta will be in a different orbit of cities in the world that have had the
privilege of hosting the games and that’s something special, because to a worldwide audience,
they will now know Atlanta and what we’re all about. They will know the legacy of these games.

MARTIN: Common Ground is a service of the Stanley Foundation, a nonprofit,
nonpartisan organization that conducts varied programs and activities meant to provoke thought
and encourage dialogue on world affairs.


ATLANTA 1996



MARTIN: This summer, two million people from around the world will pour into Atlanta,
Georgia, for the centennial summer Olympic games. Two-thirds of the world’s population will watch
on television, 11 million tickets will be sold, 40,000 volunteers will be enlisted and most
important, 14,000 of the world’s finest athletes will compete. City officials estimate the games
will have an economic impact of $5.1 billion in the region. Keith Porter recently spent some time
in Atlanta and had a chance to talk with some of the locals about the upcoming extravaganza.

MARIE HIGHTOWER: The pool is great. It has all the seats on one side and then has a tin
roof that is five stories. Then the other side you can see the whole city and the dormitories,
the new Olympic village. It’s great.

KEITH PORTER: This is Marie Hightower. She works at Macy’s department store in Atlanta.
She’s describing the new swimming stadium built for the Olympics. At a preliminary event there,
Marie met people from all over the world.

HIGHTOWER: We met someone, a young girl that was a diver from the Czech Republic. I said
Czechoslovakia, and she corrected me and said Czech Republic.

PORTER: So you’re learning something?

HIGHTOWER: Yeah. That’s right. We had them from Azerbaijan. It was fun.

PORTER: And someone from Georgia?

HIGHTOWER: Oh yes. It was fun—the wrestling team. Somebody said Georgia and the young
girl next to me said, no, no this is Georgia. She didn’t understand. And he pulled out his
passport, and it said Georgia.

PORTER: So what do you think about the Olympics coming to Atlanta?

HIGHTOWER: Great! It’ll be fun. Yeah.

PORTER: Do you think it’ll be more hassle than it’s worth?

HIGHTOWER: No, I don’t.

PORTER: Do you think you’ll be able to go to any of the events?

HIGHTOWER: I don’t know. That’s why I went to this one, the World Cup, because I’ll
probably be working. I don’t know that I will. My husband went to badminton when they had the
World Cup. These are the same athletes that are going to be here during the Olympics. He watched
that, and then he watched table tennis with the Chinese. It was great. I can’t go to the
Olympics, it’s going to come to me.

FLO HAYES: Well, it might mean a lot of good things to a lot of people, but for me it
just means a lot of traffic. If we can’t get around in rush hour now, I don’t know how we’re
going to get around at all when you bring thousands and thousands more people into the city.

PORTER: Flo Hayes drives a cab in Atlanta. She’s not nearly as excited about the crush of
humanity destined for her city.

HAYES: I just don’t see how taxis are going to make any money, because they’re going to
be sittin’ in traffic all day. I think it’s going to be a big parking lot.

PORTER: They say two million people.

HAYES: Oh that’s even worse.

PORTER: It might mean more business for you. Is that possible?

HAYES: Well, I don’t know how we’ll get to the customers or how we’ll get them where
they’re going because of all the traffic. It’s bad now.

PORTER: So have you thought about maybe leaving Atlanta next summer instead?

HAYES: Yeah. I’ve thought about it.

PORTER: I know a lot of people talk about going somewhere else for those two or three
weeks.

HAYES: Yeah. I’d like to do that if I could.

JOSEPH: I think it would be a great opportunity for Atlanta. We’ll see.

PORTER: Joseph, a cab driver and long-time resident of Atlanta came originally from the
West Indies.

JOSEPH: We might have a little traffic problems, but the city’s working on the streets
and expanding the lanes. They will come up with an idea. One that will solve that problem.

PORTER: Do you think that people from around the world will come away with a good image
of Atlanta?

JOSEPH: Yes, I do. There are a lot of people from different parts of the world, and
Atlanta already seems multicultural. It will be a good opportunity for the world to see Atlanta.

PORTER: Yes. You know some people are talking about leaving town. Some Atlanta natives,
at least. Have you considered that?

JOSEPH: No. I don’t consider that. There’s nothing to worry about. It is a great time to
see different people from all over the world.

PORTER: The enthusiasm of residents like Joseph is just the attitude city leaders are
hoping for. Atlanta Mayor, Bill Campbell, told me just why he thinks Atlanta was chosen.

CAMPBELL: First, clearly I think our infrastructure was in better shape than any of the
other competing cities with the possible exception of Toronto. We had a great deal of support
politically from the business community and from the neighborhoods. I think the unanimity of
support was very important for the International Olympic Committee. And finally, I think the fact
that Atlanta really represents diversity. It’s the home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The great
civil rights movement sprung from the loins of Atlanta. It’s a place where diversity has been
celebrated and enjoys great prominence. And I would have to think that particularly with the
African countries being lobbied by former Ambassador Andrew Young, all of those factors sort of
pieced together this mosaic that allowed us to be successful in our bid.

PORTER: Give us a status report on preparations. Are you going to be ready?

CAMPBELL: Well, we’ll be ready. There are sort of two aspects of being ready. First is
the actual athletic venues. All of them will have preliminary competitions prior to the games, so
we will have no problem when making certain that the athletic competitions’ venues are ready.
The other feature is whether or not we have the city ready. And we’re going to work right up
until the opening ceremonies of really cleaning and getting all of our neighborhoods ready and
making certain that we have the city in as beautiful a state as possible. We can’t really compete
with the great architecture of the European cities, and I’m not certain if we have the grandeur
of places like Los Angeles, but what we do have is a great Southern hospitality and a charm
that’s very unique to Atlanta. So we’re very hopeful that our visitors will appreciate what we
who live here already know, and that is that Atlanta is a great place to live and to work.

PORTER: What are the figures on the number of athletes and spectators you’re expecting?

CAMPBELL: Over two million. It’s going to be the largest gathering of nations in the
history of the world. Over 200 countries will come to these ceremonies. A lot of foreign
dignitaries, but mostly it will be the athletes and their stories that really will be told here
in Atlanta. But we’re very happy to be able to tell our story about what Atlanta has achieved.
Atlanta is the capital of the new South. In fact, this is the first time that the Olympics have
come to the South. So we’re very pleased to be able to say, look at what we’ve done and look at
what we represent. We think that this is the future of our country.

PORTER: I know a lot of cities, and I think specifically of Tokyo and Seoul, have seen
the Olympics as a real transformative experience, something that sort of let the rest of the
world know that this was an international city, that they were open for business. What do you
expect will be the long-term legacy of hosting these Olympics for Atlanta?

CAMPBELL: We think there are clearly two long-lasting legacies. One is that Atlanta will
be in a different orbit of cities in the world that have had the privilege of hosting the games.
That’s something special. Because to a worldwide audience, they will now know Atlanta and what we
are all about, and they will know the legacy of these games, the centennial Olympic games. But
for the people of Atlanta, the legacy really will be the bricks and mortar—improved housing, new
housing, better parks, recreation programs, and improved infrastructure, a great economic boom
during this period.

So there’s an awful lot to be thankful for. The Olympics has really been tremendously helpful for
us. As other cities have struggled financially, we have literally had this great boom in both
support from the federal government for projects, because we are hosting the games on behalf of
the United States of America. We’ve gotten great cooperation from the state government, and we’ve
pitched in a lot with our own efforts—both the business support and our own local support—in
making and really transforming Atlanta. So it’s going to be a special time after the games to
sort of look back and see everything that came as a result of this special opportunity.

PORTER: Of course Atlanta is already a city that’s linked widely to the rest of the
world. Can you give us a feel for that, for the international flavor of Atlanta and how it
connects with the rest of the world?

CAMPBELL: Most of the world knows Atlanta today through CNN. It is the only common
denominator wherever you go around the world and that is that CNN broadcasts originate from
Atlanta. That’s very helpful, and people understand who we are and what we are. I think Dr. King
and his great legacy are also part and parcel as is Coca Cola. So you’ve got a number of
signature pieces for which people know Atlanta, but very few people know the whole story about
our history. And that’s what the Olympics will give us—an opportunity to tell that story to the
world. It’s very special for us because we think that while other cities across the South and
even some in the North fought segregation and were destroyed racially, Atlanta worked together in
a progressive manner. That’s really been the strength of our city—diversity. We hope people will
come and understand that we’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished here.

PORTER: I understand you led a trade delegation to South Africa last year. What other
sorts of international links have you tried to form with Atlanta and the rest of the world?

CAMPBELL: Interestingly enough, because of former Mayor Andrew Young’s work and former
Mayor Maynard Jackson’s work on behalf of bringing international investors to our city, it’s
already a lot to build upon. But we have had our trade mission to South Africa. We’ll have
another one to South America and another one to Asia. That gives us the opportunity to present
the story of Atlanta. And Georgia is very strong economically in terms of foreign investment, so
it’s not as difficult as it might seem. We feel as though given the stability of our economy, the
fact that we’re growing, we’re recognized as one of the best places to do business. We have a
very well educated populace. We think that really bodes well for us in the international
investment community.

PORTER: I know that there are a lot of people who say that the power to make US foreign
policy and conduct international commerce is slipping away from Washington, going more to the
states and municipalities. Do you agree with that? Do you see that happening? And what does that
mean for you as a mayor of a major city?

CAMPBELL: I don’t agree with that. I think the foreign policy of this country has been
and will always be set by Washington and the President of the United States. But we clearly want
to be supportive. We think that our efforts at outreach on behalf of foreign investment,
supporting efforts such as the dismantling of the apartheid system in South Africa where we had
this investment policy. There are a number of ways that cities and states can play a part, but
ultimately the fiber of our foreign policy must be set by the federal government and by the
president. And we’re very supportive of President Clinton.

PORTER: Right. Just one last question for you. When you thought about becoming mayor, did
you think that you would be hosting something like this, welcoming leaders from around the world?

CAMPBELL: You have to appreciate that I grew up in the segregated South, integrated
schools of Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1960 at the age of seven, and saw the flames of hatred on
the crosses of the Ku Klux Klan. I never imagined that I would actually have the honor of seeing
the flames of hope in the Olympic Games in 1996. So, this is an incredible odyssey for me. I
don’t know if I ever expected anything like it, but I’m certainly going to enjoy it a great deal
as our city has this opportunity.

PORTER: That is Bill Campbell, Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, the host of this summer’s
Centennial Summer Olympic Games. For Common Ground, I’m Keith Porter.

MARTIN: If you would like to share your thoughts about either program, write to us at the
Stanley Foundation, 216 Sycamore Street, Muscatine, Iowa 52761. For Common Ground, I’m
Jeff Martin.

B.J. Liederman created our theme music. Common Ground was produced and funded by the
Stanley Foundation.





Copyright © 1996,
The Stanley Foundation


[email protected]