NEW DELHI: Many homes have granite floors and kitchen platforms; granite is regularly used on tombstones. While using these sleek, easy-to-clean surfaces, we seldom pause to consider the conditions under which the stone is extracted and processed. A report released by Dutch NGOs Stop Child Labour, India Committee of the Netherlands and Kerk in Actie (Church in Action) shows that half the global export of granite is from India; about 10% of all natural stone traded on the world market is from India, which is one of the top five producers of the world’s natural stone. Yet, conditions in stone quarries are deplorable.
China, Germany, Belgium, UK and the Netherlands are major importers of Indian granite. ‘The Dark Sites of Granite’, the report released on August 23, studies supply chains from quarries in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana to end-users in Europe and other parts of the world. It attempts to track child labour, bonded labour and other labour rights violations, and measures to address rights violations. Surveys were undertaken in 22 quarries. Among these were quarries in Chimakurthi of Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh, where the famous Black Galaxy variety with a worldwide market is produced. Surveys were undertaken also at quarries in Karimnagar of Telangana, where the Maple Red and Tan Brown granite is mined, that goes mostly to China. (This business saw a huge boom ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics; but the industry has entered a crisis phase since 2014 and many quarries have shut.) Quarries in Mudugal in Raichur district of Karnataka were also surveyed.
“Granite quarrying in South India is largely under the control of economically powerful and politically influential people. Large scale corruption in the allocation of mines, granting permits and illegal mining have received wide attention since 2010,” the report says.