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Child labor used in India

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    Child labor used in India

    Hand-rolled, unfiltered cigarettes produced by a company based in India may have been made with forced child labor and thus cannot enter the United States, the Customs Service said Wednesday.

    The order against Mangalore Ganesh Beedi Works will continue pending the final results of an investigation, the agency said.

    It's illegal to import goods into the United States made with forced labor, indentured labor or convict labor.

    Customs said its order is based on information from a ``60 Minutes II'' segment that aired Tuesday alleging that the company uses forced or indentured child labor in the manufacture of its cigarettes. A hand-rolled, unfiltered cigarette is called a ``beedi'' or ``bidi'' in India.

    The agency said it was already investigating allegations of forced child labor in the bidi industry in India when the ``60 Minutes II'' report surfaced.

    The program included a videotape of apparently indentured children making bidi cigarettes for Mangalore Ganesh, Customs said.

    ``The use of forced, convict or bonded labor, especially the forced labor of children, is morally, ethically and legally wrong,'' said Customs Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

    According to its Web site, Mangalore Ganesh of Karnataka State, India, was founded in 1940 and employs 150,000 people. Attempts to reach the company were not immediately successful.

    Customs didn't have information on how many cigarettes Mangalore Ganesh ships to the United States. However, the estimated value of all imported bidi cigarettes, including those made by Mangalore Ganesh, in fiscal year 1999 was $1.28 million, up from $915,000 the year before, said Customs spokeswoman, Layne Lathram.

    Lathram didn't know when Customs' investigation into Mangalore Ganesh would be completed. The company will either have to put the cigarettes in storage or ship them back where they came from as long as the order remains in effect, she said.