In pictures: The reality of children helping in home based work
To be tabled in this season’s parliamentary session, the government proposes an amendment to the child labour legislation. The amendment proposes a ban of all child labour upto 14 years of age, but contains a provisio, which allows children under 14 years to help their parents after school, and during vacations in fields, home based work or forest gathering.
The government envisages that this provisio will help impoverished families earn a living and give children an ‘entrepreneurial spirit’. India has 10 million children who work. We have no system or services in place to monitor, rehabilitate or even to obtain justice for children who have been exploited at their work places. Such an amendment will allow for millions of children to fall into the ambit of work. In the Indian context where definitions of family are ambiguous (everyone is an uncle and nephew), the provisio in the amendment will deny children who are being forced to work, the right to legal recourse.
“The new economic growth model is pushing more and more work from factory floors to homes. In cramped, poorly lit and barely ventilated slum shanties, children bend over for hours moulding, stitching, embroidering, weaving and folding,”writes human rights activist, Harsh Mander. We would be fooling ourselves if we think that children who work under these conditions would be in a position to attend school, and have time left over for study and recreation.
For those of us who are under the illusion that children helping their parents in home based work is alright, here are some images that capture what it really looks like. Invisible and dangerous.
Murram (the tray one makes beedi on) and Suri (the knife that is used for closing the tip of the beedi) instead of toys
Nimble fingers move with robotic precision- placing the tobacco inside the dried leaf, tightly rolling and tying it up with a thread, and closing the tip with a sharp knife. Continuous beedi rolling leads to thinning of skin on the fingers and results in direct absorption of high doses of Nicotine.
Soft hands that harden mud clay into the bricks
Smoke rising off huge furnaces of brick kilns amidst green fields beside highways. Déjà vu? Yes we’re sure. But, what you have probably failed to notice is the black coal dust smeared faces of children working alongside their parents, carrying and placing the bricks to dry under the sun. Their eyes burn, their lungs fill with coal dust. Would you want them to do this for even a minute?
Ever heard this? “Woh apna chacha se kaam seekhne Mumbai chala gaya?”
Eyes strained, staring at the patterns they are sowing, finger tips sore from handling needles, they strain their spines, sitting with their necks bent. These are not factories with protection standards and workers’ rights. Many of these are units operating out of people’s homes in urban shanties.
Bangles or handcuffs?
In the confines of their homes- on the floor, they solder, mould over a flame and finish by dipping in acid. Too soon to be learning a traditional family skill?
Childhoods lost a stick at a time
Each match is coated the chemical mixture. Then packed. Hundreds in a day for a meagre some of money. The low price of each piece makes the volume of her work overwhelmingly high. She could be one of the many children we’ve heard of, who get home from school and get to work.
Incense of a childhood lost
Exposed to chemicals in incense paste, their eyes and lungs get affected over time.
Where are the colours in their lives: The white cotton pickers of India
Children are involved at every stage – seeding cotton, picking and ginning- the ugly side of a global business chain which provides raw material to high-end garment brands. According to an article in Reuters, India is the largest producer of cotton, an industry which thrives on cheap labour offered by children. As seasonal labour children are taken in droves across states far away from their homes.
Chotu serving you Chai? Everywhere, isn’t he?
Even if you try telling the owner that child labour in dhabhas is banned, he’ll most likely tell you Chotu is his nephew, and that he goes to school and helps in his free time. Chotu’s eyes however, will tell you another story. One that you won’t be able to do much about if the proposed amendments pass.
Photo Credits : AP
Words By : Leher