Thousands of Child-Laborers Dismantle E-Waste in India’s Capital


When in many developed countries kids play with electronic gadgets, in India children from poor families work to dismantle the same to earn a small livelihood, while exposing themselves to harmful radiations.

Over 35,000–45,000 child laborers of the age group of 10–14 years in Delhi are estimated to be working in the collection, segregation, and distribution of e-waste without adequate protection, according to a recent study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).

The chamber has strongly advocated in its report the need to bring out effective legislation to prevent entry of child labour into e-waste activities.

“Domestic e-waste including computer, TV, mobiles, and refrigerators contain over a thousand toxic materials, which contaminate soil and groundwater,” said Dr. B. K. Rao, Chairman of ASSOCHAM Health committee, while releasing the study: E-Waste in India by 2015.

“Exposure can cause headache, irritability, nausea, vomiting, (and) eye pain. Recyclers may suffer liver, kidney, and neurological disorders,” he said.

The study mentions that workers are not adequately protected; the e-waste from PC monitors, CDs, motherboards, cables, toner cartridges, and tube-lights etc., are burned in the open, releasing lead and mercury toxins into the air.

The release also mentions that India’s National Capital Region (NCR) of Delhi is fast emerging as the e-waste capital of the country. “Delhi-NCR likely to generate 50,000 metric tons of e-waste by 2015,” the release said.

According to D S Rawat, Secretary General ASSOCHAM, the study showed that currently Delhi generates  approximately 30,000 metric tons of e-waste per year and the national capital has employed over 1.5 Lakhs of workers in city’s various organized and unorganized recycling units.

“As many as 8,500 mobile handset, 5,500 TV sets and 3,000 personal computers are dismantled in the city every day for reuse of their component parts and materials”, Rawat said in the release.  

According to the study, large e-waste centres exist in the cities of Delhi-NCR, Meerut, Ferozabad, Chennai, Bangalore, and Mumbai, with 85,000 recyclers working in Delhi-NCR alone.

“While the list is growing so is the quantity as these products are getting more affordable, and more and more people are using them. Increasing usage also leads to more of them coming up for disposal, thus increasing the rate of obsolescence and replacement,” said Rawat.

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