A key driver of supply chain improvements will always be the private sector. Intelligent entrepreneurs will look for ways to find wins for all stakeholders. This is Bhagwan’s story.
Trade and investment in the Natural Stone Sector offer’s great potential for generating income, growth, prosperity, sustaining livelihoods and fostering local development. Under the “Getting Down to Business” project Stop Child Labour, through Manjari (A local CSO), began working with local businesses to protect the human rights of families engaged in the processing of natural stone.
Mr. Bhagwan Das has been manufacturing Sandstone Cobbles in the Budhpura area of the Bundi district of Rajasthan for the past 20 years. His father moved here when Bhagwan Das was only 2 years old. His father started a Paan (Beetle) shop in Budhpura to earn his livelihood. Due to his family conditions Bhagwan left education at the 6th grade. Initially, he started a grocery shop but he was keen to explore other avenues to increase his family income. He decided to establish a business producing sandstone cobbles. The business flourished and he established one of the largest cobble yards in Budhpura employing around 300 male/female workers.
Under the Stop Child Labour umbrella,Manjari, a local CSO, is working to safeguard the rights of cobble workers and their families. A key part of Manjari’s strategy is to work with local business owners and this was how the project team met Mr. Bhagwan Das and other cobble yard owners in Budhpura. Regular meetings and activities were organized to begin the process of sensitizing local business on Labour issues. Initially, business owners saw the program as a threat to the cobble business but through constant engagement the Manjari team, sensitized the local business owners about the importance of providing a safe environment for their workers and protecting the rights of local children.
Mr. Bhagwan took this very positively and started making changes to the working conditions in his cobble yard. He started off by supplying drinking water and toilet facilities for his male and female workers, something that was unheard of in the cobble industry. He then set about encouraging children to attend school by providing a motivation center with in yard. Various outdoor and indoor games facilities are being developed. An area was created to provide a safe environment for children to play in. This meant that while the parents were working the children could engage in fun and constructive activities rather than just roaming around.
Mobile working shades have been provided to workers to protect them from the effects of the very hot sun. Despite all this development costing money Bhagwan Das, a business man first and foremost, has realized that providing his workers with these basic facilities increases the productivity of his cobble yard at the same time as improving the welfare of his workers. A win win situation. Now he is planning to create a fund for pregnant women workers. The fund will provide maternity pay for the women, something completely unheard of in the local cobble industry.
It is Bhagwan Das’s ambition to develop a model cobble yard in Budhpura where workers are provided with good working conditions. He is now influencing other yard owners to improving conditions at their yards.
Bhagwan Das has also adopted other improvements like maintaining workers records and documenting wage payments. This is just beginning in the cobble sector; many more stakeholders need to be sensitized to protect the human rights of the workers engaged in the processing of Natural stone.