'Hyderabadi bangle's fame, now a circle of shame'. These are on the lines on which activists are planning a campaign to increase consumer awareness about the use of child labour in the making of Hyderabad's famous lac bangles.
That's because even after it came to light that the glitter of the stone bangles was built on the exploitation of thousands of children, there seems to be little impact on the Chudi Market at Lad Bazaar, where it is business as usual.
"Hyderabad is famous for bangles and biryani. Whoever comes to Hyderabad, customer and tourist loves the Hyderabadi bangles. Nothing has changed," says Mohd Iqbal, whose bangle outlet is just a couple of shops away from the city's iconic Charminar.
Over 400 children were rescued last month from bangle manufacturing units. A majority of them hailed from poor districts of Bihar, were being paid a pittance, and had been brought on upfront payments made to their families.
The activists fear the exploitation of child labour would continue if customers continue to buy the bangles, and are pushing for calling for consumer consciousness and a child-labour-free certification.
"It is not cheap labour. We pay according to what they deserve," says Mohd Waseem, arguing his case aggressively. "They come and work because they are poor. We are forced to employ them because they are desperate," he reasons.
Shanta Sinha, former chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, says society needs to feel shock and outrage at such incidents, and that Indians must take a cue from Europe to boycott such products.
"In the last couple of years, children are being used extensively. That has impacted the market price of bangles. For instance, we would make a set for 400 rupees. They sell for 300 rupees. A clean 100 rupees difference, because they are making greater profit by employing children," says Mohd Suban, who says his family has been making Hyderabadi lac bangles for generations without employing child labour.