This Valentine's Day when you gift a rose to your beloved, there is all possibility of child labour being engaged in processing it.
Malur, the little-known rose capital on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border, which caters to a large domestic and export market, engages more than 1,000 female children in this chain of rose production, right from rose plucking to packaging, according to John Devaraj, a film maker and a child rights activist.
"These girls are swift in their work and can pluck upto even 10,000 roses per day and that too with extreme delicacy. So, we have these little angels spoiling their childhood in this booming industry," he said.
Devaraj, who is also working on a short film on these 'rose-girls', says the employers find child labour 'cheap' as well as 'suitable' to have female children work in these plastic houses of rose gardens as the children are of short stature and 'less harsh' in handling the roses.
These girls get paid Rs 20 to Rs 25 per day while a single rose is sold at a cost of more than Rs 100 in international markets like Holland and Japan, he says.
Bangalore, on an average, exports one aircraft load full of roses everyday and with occasions like Valentine's Day, it multiplies many times, says Devaraj adding, these are the days "when the little girls work two shifts a day to keep pace with the demand."
The legal ban on child labour has failed to check the "blatant" use of child labour in the rose-farming industry.
"It's true that we fall short on many fronts, but in cases like this only a pro-active initiative from the public and the concerned department can help the situation," says Shaiju Varghese, co-ordinator, 1098 Childline in Delhi.