Among the many crises that the Covid-19 pandemic gave rise to, child labour is a pernicious one. The loss of sources of income and the closure of schools pushed children into a vicious cycle of exploitation and poverty.
Anil is 13. He migrated from Uttar Pradesh to Haryana around twelve years ago. Because they migrated from one state to another, his handicapped mother can neither avail of the subsidies provided by the local governments, nor can receive her widow and disabled-person pensions. Anil sells vegetables on cart and he is a sole earner for his family of six – four younger siblings and his mother. His father passed away recently. Anil wants to study but cannot due to family responsibilities.
15-year-old girl Deepika had to discontinue her studies due to financial crisis. After that she lost her mother, she was saddled with the responsibility of looking after her younger sisters and father.
Another 15-year-old from Panipat, Noorani, does sundry tailoring work and takes care of a family of six members. She dropped out of school after the death of her mother eight years back. Her father is an alcoholic who does not work.
The only silver lining in these children’s lives is that a few NGOs have come to their aid. NGO, Humana India helped Anil in enrolling his brothers and sisters in school but Anil has to manage his family’s financial crisis for now. This NGO came in touch with Deepika and her family. They convinced her father to enroll the girls back in school.
NGO also informed News18 that during Covid-19 lockdown, child labour has boomed as closure of schools gave parents an opportunity to take their kids to work along with them. “It is rampant in small contract companies to which large industries outsource their work. These companies are not registered and are hence not audited.”
A survey done by International Labor Organization (ILO) reveals that over 4.5 million Indian children are engaged in child labor. This figure comes after the census report of 2011. Ironically, India considers its youth as an asset and believes that we as a country have abundance of opportunities and human resources. A serious fact check might change this perspective.
Vishnu and Rohan are two kids who wander from place to place in a group of small families. They perform on the streets for local entertainment shows. Sudha Jha, who works for an NGO based in Panipat told News18 about such kids. They travel from place to place with their families and fall under the category of fixed child labour. Such kids are sharp and have good general knowledge about the locals compared to children who work in particular areas. They travel and work in order to keep their family tradition alive.
Sudha mostly engages with rural sections and creates awareness about child labour and other social issues. She suggests that such children should be given proper education and skills training. But sadly, their parents want their kids to pass on the ‘Nat ka khel’ family tradition after them. So staying at one place for studies and skills training is not even an option for such kids. They work hard whole day by performing roadshows for a meagre income.