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.


COMMON GROUND

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