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Hard evidence of child labor at 2010 Commonwealth Games

By Phil Han, CNN
  • Trafficking expert Siddharth Kara: I documented 14 cases of child labor
  • Kara: The labor was for construction related to the Commonwealth Games
  • Kara: Children as young as seven working
  • Delhi official: Kara did not contact us, we would have acted if we had known

(CNN) -- As Indian officials struggle to deal with mounting international criticism toward the safety and security of Commonwealth Game athletes, new evidence has emerged that show children as young as seven are being used in the construction of game venues.

In an exclusive interview with CNN International, Harvard fellow and trafficking expert Siddharth Kara told Becky Anderson that child labor was a widespread and well known issue in New Delhi.

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"I reliably documented in just a few days 32 cases of forced labor and 14 cases of child labor all for construction related to the Commonwealth Games," Kara said on Connect the World.

"The children I saw were the ones where I felt I had documented child labor -- where children were working, picking up hammers, banging stones, paving entry ways and planting grass along the roads to beautify them, hours and hours at a time."

"I documented children aged seven, eight, nine, ten years old working alongside their families in this mad rush to get the construction completed."

Kara, a renowned expert on the subject of human trafficking, also outlined the harsh conditions these children were forced to work under.

"The conditions are sub-human and that's really the only word I can apply," Kara said.

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"They live in the dirt, they go to the toilet behind bushes and trees which is why they found human excrement in the athletes village a few days ago.

"The children, especially the young ones, don't have a sense of what's going on. They're told to do the work and they just do the work. They don't know that they should be in school or that they should be playing."

CNN anchor Becky Anderson pushed Kara on the issue and questioned the methods he used to document the cases of child labor and whether they were not just children accompanying their parents on job sites.

Kara responded by explaining that he went to great lengths to accurately document these cases.

"I didn't just show up, turn up and then carry on to the next site because it took me several days to document these 30 or 40 cases," Kara said.

"It would take me hours to document, in the heat and high humidity. It's not just kids playing in the dirt or using a hammer as a toy."

CNN tried back on July 23, 2010, to contact the chief minister for New Delhi and minister responsible, Sheila Dixit about the allegations made by Kara, but after several attempts, no official reply was ever made.

Dixit did finally speak to CNN's Connect the World this past Tuesday and said that if she was aware of the allegations of child labor in the first place, she would have acted.

"If this gentleman, whoever this student was from Harvard, if he had come to us, told us that this is what was happening there, we would have taken immediate action," Dixit said.

The minister also went on to say that "she had wished" somebody would have come and told her of the allegations.

Kara, who was asked of Dixit's response, said that he had in fact tried to contact Indian government officials of his findings.

"I tried to let people know back in mid-July and I tried to contact the ministry of labor several times about my findings but had no response," Kara said.