Saturday, October 11, 2008

Indian children work despite ban
A child worker at a tea stall
Children often work for long hours and get paid little

Millions of children under 14 continue to work as domestic servants or at food stalls two years after India banned their employment, say activists.

Activists say there has been little progress in curbing child labour as only 12,000 children have been removed from illegal employment since the ban.

According to official statistics, there are 255,000 children employed in homes and at roadside food stalls.

But activists say their numbers could be as high as 20 million.

According to Save the Children, the number of children working in homes in Delhi alone is seven to eight million.

According to the 2001 census figures, India has more than 12.6 million child workers. Children's groups put that number at between 35 to 60 million.

'Major problem'

"There has been very little progress. The problem of child labour at homes and in roadside food stalls is large in terms of numbers," says Thomas Chandy, head of Save the Children in India.

Since the ban came into effect, the labour ministry has carried out 12,000 operations to remove children from illegal employment, but there have been only 211 prosecutions.

A child worker at a tea stall
Poverty forces many parents to send their children to work

"Police are unable to bring in charges, to hold someone responsible, to punish the offenders - that is a major problem," Mr Chandy says.

This fails to deter those who employ children and often make them work in unhealthy conditions for long hours and little pay, he says.

"It's a form of slavery. On an average these children are paid 1,000 rupees [a month, about $20], sometimes even less. And they are being abused, physically, often sexually too. And the government lacks the will to deal with the problem," Mr Chandy says.

Crippling poverty forces parents across India to send their children, sometimes as young as five or six, to big cities and towns to work in other people's homes or in factories.

A government committee had earlier warned that children under 14 were vulnerable to physical, mental and even sexual abuse.

The child workers are not organised and as they work within the confines of the home, they are unseen and unheard and their abuse goes unreported.

"We need a large awareness campaign so that people know that employing children is illegal. And prosecution of the offenders has to be much quicker if we want to deter others," Mr Chandy says.

"We are not happy at this point, a lot needs to be done."


The ban on employing children from working as domestic servants or in teashops, restaurants, spas, hotels, resorts and other recreational centres came into effect on 10 October 2006.

Officials said that anyone found violating the ban would be penalised under the Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act of 1986.

Punishment ranges from a jail term of three months to two years and/or a fine of 10,000 to 20,000 rupees (about $200-$400).

However, activists say laws have remained ineffective in curbing child labour.

India bans the use of young workers in hazardous industries, but thousands of children continue to work in firecracker and matchstick factories or are involved in carpet-weaving, embroidery or stitching footballs.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Restaraunt Uses Monkeys as Waiters

You expect to see something a little strange from time to time while traveling through Asia, but one establishment has something to really shock you.

Kayabuki, a Japanese tavern in Utsunomiya, recently employed 2 Macaques monkeys to act as waiters. Fuku is 12 years-old and Yat is a young 4 years of age and both seem to enjoy their new work.

japan-monkey-waiter01 Restaraunt Uses Monkeys as Waiters picture

Kaoru Otsuka, owner of the tavern, says the 2 monkeys are their household pets, but one day he noticed one of them mimicking a waiter by giving the customer a hot towel in the restaurant.

Mr. Otsuka thought it would be an interesting idea to have them actually serve the customers.

japan-monkey-waiter02 Restaraunt Uses Monkeys as Waiters picture

Both monkeys works 2 hours a day, serving drinks and handing customer hot towels.

They don’t seem to mind the work and are happy to do it in exchange for some Edamame (soybeans) from the customers as tip.

The monkey waiters have done such a good job and brought so much business to the restaurant, Mr. Otsuka admits they’re better than his real son at the job.

Sri Lanka minister survives blast

A suspected suicide bomber in Sri Lanka has killed at least one person in an attack apparently targeting a government minister, officials say.

They say Agriculture Minister Maithripala Sirisena escaped the blast unhurt in the town of Boralesgamuwa, 10km (six miles) east of Colombo.

An army spokesman told the BBC five people had been injured in the attack.

The explosion comes three days after a rebel suicide bomber killed 29 people in the northern town of Anuradhapura.


An army spokesman said that in the latest attack a woman suicide bomber from the Tamil Tigers had targeted Mr Sirisena's convoy.

Maithripala Sirisena
Mr Sirisena had been attending a harvest festival

He told the AFP news agency that while the minister had been uninjured, a vehicle carrying his secretary had been damaged. Deputy Agriculture Minister Siripala Gamlath was among three people hurt.

The spokesman said that the minister was returning to Colombo after attending a harvest festival event.

Monday's suicide blast in Anuradhapura killed a former senior general, according to the army.

Maj Gen Janaka Perera, a controversial commander in the Jaffna peninsula in the 1990s, died alongside his wife.

More than 80 people were injured when the suicide bomber blew himself up inside the United National Party office near a bus depot, officials said.

They blamed the attack on the Tamil Tigers.

The rebels have been fighting for a separate homeland for a quarter of a century and about 70,000 people have been killed in the violence.

India's Sensex ends down again
Rising inflation erodes the value of the Indian currency and investments

Indian stocks fell sharply by nearly 1,000 points to a three-year low in the opening session of trading on Friday, registering a drop of 9%.

The benchmark Sensex fell to 10,239 points in early trade before closing just above 10,500.

The crash also affected the rupee which fell to 49 against the US dollar.

Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has cut the cash reserve ratio for banks to 7.5% to help generate more cash in the banking system.

It could make more than $12bn of credit available in an effort to resolve the liquidity crunch.

Traders say the market is responding to the global markets and the cut in the cash reserve ratio will help reduce the impact of the global crisis.

The BBC's Prachi Pinglay in Mumbai says it has been one of the worst weeks in recent years for Indian investors. Indian shares have lost nearly 50% of their value this year.

"Right now fear factor is overwhelming the markets and in the short run it can play havoc," broking and investment consultant Dilip Bhat said.

Some Indian traders fear that many foreign institutional investors, faced with increased problems at home and an unwillingness to take on extra risks, will sell their emerging market holdings and leave the market.

According to official figures, foreign funds have sold shares worth $879m (£445m) in the four days to Thursday, taking total outflow in 2008 to $4.8bn.

Some traders say the figures show that foreign investors are "queuing up to exit" the Indian market.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Bollywood workers strike 'over'

Bollywood technician
Some workers have not been paid for months, unions say

A strike that brought Bollywood film production to a halt has been called off, unions and employers say.

Union leader Dinesh Chaturvedi told the BBC News website that managers had agreed to their demands.

Unions said staff were working unreasonable hours and in many cases producers were months behind in payments to their staff.

The strike had also hit the booming television production in Mumbai (Bombay) in western India.

Implementation arguments

"The producers have agreed to our demands," Mr Chaturvedi of the Federation of Western India Cine Employees said. He told the BBC a new committee would look into payment disputes. And he said television filming sessions would be limited to 12 hours.

Sushma Shiromanee, vice-president of the Indian Motion Picture Producers' Association, told the BBC: "The strike is over. We have agreed to the same demands as on the earlier Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)."

Bollywood actor Salman Khan
Top stars can earn a fortune.

The BBC's Prachi Pinglay in Mumbai says the two sides signed a MoU early last year detailing wages for each category of worker in Mumbai's film and TV studios.

It also included guaranteed wage increases of up to 15% a year. However, since then producers and workers have argued over the implementation of the MoU.

Mr Chaturvedi's federation of 22 unions represents some 147,000 members. Earlier this week he complained that in some cases wages had been withheld for up to six months, leaving workers on the verge of starvation.

Television productions on tight schedules such as reality shows were the most affected by the dispute and several shooting schedules for daily shows were cancelled.

Workers complained that sometimes filming would carry on for more than 30 hours.

Those on strike ranged from dancing girls to carpenters, lighting technicians to cameramen, and soundmen to script writers.


The strike came as Bollywood has been enjoying an huge international boom. Top stars can earn more than $1m for a film.

One cameraman, Pramod, told the BBC that that a lack of proper contracts has led to severe insecurity for many staff. "Before, we used to get transport and some other facilities. Now if any worker complains, he will be replaced in no time," he said.

"Sometimes we are handling several serials at the same time. We don't even break for lunch in shooting schedules."

Another person involved in production, who wished to remain anonymous told the BBC: "The working conditions sometimes are inhumane. The workers prefer to be in television industry as there is more regular work than films. But how long can they work under such pressure? Even if the money matters are settled some guidelines must be laid down for working conditions."

While the negotiations were still going on, Mr Chaturvedi warned that production houses would have trouble meeting the backlog of unpaid wages. "They have been paying only about one third of what we agreed upon early 2007. And they have delayed those payments too," he told the BBC.

He warned that the total in unpaid wages could be worth the equivalent of $11m.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

India 'kills Kashmir infiltrator'
Jammu map

Indian border troops say they have shot dead a militant who was trying to cross the international border from Pakistan into Indian-administered Kashmir.

A group of three to four men tried to enter the territory near Jammu city on Thursday evening, a spokesman said.

Pakistan's military provided covering fire for the militants, he alleged. There is no word from Pakistan.

Both India and Pakistan claim the disputed territory of Kashmir and have fought two wars over it.

It is the latest in a series of incidents that have strained relations between the counties.

There has been relative calm since a ceasefire in Kashmir in 2003.

But there have been more than 20 incidents this year with both sides accusing each other of ceasefire violations.

'Ran away'

The Border Security Force (BSF) spokesman said troops saw some movement near Korotana border post, about 25km (15 miles) west of Jammu.

"It was a group of three to four infiltrators trying to sneak into the Indian side," he said.

The troops fired, killing one of them but the others managed to run away, he said.

The spokesman said the dead man was a Pakistani national. "We found some eatables and cigarettes in his possession," he said.

Indian officials say this is the third such incident this week.

There was no immediate response from Pakistan, but its army has denied similar accusations in the past.

Although the nuclear rivals have made significant progress on a number of issues during the last four years of talks, they have made little headway on key issues such as Kashmir.

Last month the leaders of India and Pakistan agreed to resume peace talks following months of strained relations.