Tainted bangles of Hyderabad

Repetitive movements cause aches and pains, while exposure to lac dust can cause respiratory problems.
Tainted bangles of Hyderabad

HYDERABAD : “She still has bangles on her wrist, but no light in her eyes. Ek waqt ser bhar khana bhi nahin khaya,” she says, in a voice drained of joy. She has not enjoyed even one full meal in her entire lifetime — that’s what she has reaped!”

— Lost Spring: Stories of Stolen Childhood by Anees Jung.

On the occasion of the World Day Against Child Labour on June 12, it is important to shine some light on the little-known but widespread issue of child labour in the lac bangle industry in Hyderabad. This industry, steeped in historical and cultural significance, faces a disturbing reality: the exploitation of children in the intricate craft of bangle-making.

Hyderabad’s lac bangle industry boasts a rich history. Tradition traces its origins to the Qutb Shahi dynasty, where the bustling market of Laad Bazaar near the iconic Charminar is considered to be the heart of the trade. The bangles themselves are a symbol of cultural identity, worn by women at weddings, and festivals like Bonalu Jatara and Ramzan. Made from lac, a resinous insect secretion, these bangles are painstakingly crafted using traditional techniques.

But the appeal of this cultural treasure diminishes as we delve into the lives of its makers. Rajendra Prasad, chief programme coordinator for M Venkatrangaiya Foundation—Child Rights Organisation, Secunderabad said, “These children which are mostly girls are kept in one room and forced to work for long hours…”

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He further added that many workshops or karkhanas, operate within the confines of homes, blurring the distinction between workspace and living space. It’s not uncommon to see kids just under ten working with adults in the bangle industry. These children, who often come from disadvantaged backgrounds, are introduced to the art at a young age and it is believed that their nimble fingers are perfect for challenging tasks.

Over the years, several reports indicate that the art itself is physically demanding. Sitting on your knees for hours, shaping lac with rudimentary tools, takes a toll on young bodies. Repetitive movements cause aches and pains, while exposure to lac dust can cause respiratory problems.

The emotional impact is equally disturbing. Childhood is robbed of innocence. These young workers miss out on play, socialising and opportunities to develop important life skills. Dr Mamta Jain, clinical psychologist and founder of The Psychology Clinic, Hyderabad, said, “Resistance, depression, anxiety and maladaptive behaviour are common symptoms among children working in such unhygienic conditions.”

Hyderabad’s lac bangle industry is a beautiful tapestry woven with tradition. However, the exploitation of children tarnishes its shine.

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