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PUCL Bulletin,

November 1996

Exploitation of children - Case studies

[Shri Mahant Tiwari, President of Rachnatmak Sambhav Sackshik Anusandhan Sanstha (RDDAS) writes in the present three part article about exploitation of children by making them work in industries and by pushing the female children into prostitution.

The article is based on case studies. He says: experts opine that a child worker earns in its childhood, he/she loses ten times that due to a continuous decline in his/her productivity. Keeping such facts in mind, the United Nations had said in its declaration regarding child rights on Nov 20, 1959, that every child should receive protection for physical, mental, and moral development. This declaration was strengthened by the follow-up steps in 1986 and 1993. In spite of all such exhortations at the international level and connected laws enacted at the national level, about four crore children below the age of 14 years are working as child labour in the country. They can be found working all over the country in hotels, garages, households, and in industries like gem polishing, bidi making, bangles, glass, carpet, tea leaves picking, and match and fire-works:

RSSAS and CLAN sponsored some studies in this area. These two NGOs have been working amongst children for the past about 10 years. They conducted the studies mainly in Rajasthan and the following facts were gathered. -Gen. Secretary]

Gem polishing Industry, Jaipur: Mehrunisa, Ayesha, Kanwarjehan, Reshma; Ages: between six to eleven years; brother and sisters: five to seven; occupation; gem polishing; hours of work: with the sunrise in the morning, after procuring water for the family, up to sun-set in the evening; wages: nil for two years and Rs. 30/- per month thereafter, going upto Rs. 150/-; place of work: four feet long piece of wood for three children to sit on.

Because of powdered dust in the atmosphere at the work place, breathing troubles start within a year or two. The children grind the gems on the whetstone and after that the gems are shaped. As the gems are very small, they can be handled easily by the small and sensitive fingers of a child. Experienced workers test the gems and pas them on to the child workers for polishing; they use oxidizing chemicals to give the stones a shine.

The children are generally put to work for cutting, polishing and shaping the stones. The grinding work is best done by children. Female children belong to both Hindu and Muslim communities and are treated even worse than the male children. In Jaipur this industry is mainly concentrated in the Ghatgate, Ramganj Bazar, Galtagate, Chandpol, Gangopal, Chaardarwaza, Sansar Chand Road, Babu Ka Teeba, Aarsh Nagar Stand colonies.

The Rajasthan government has not yet conducted a survey of the gem industry. Some NGOs have some data. According to them there are about 72 to 80 thousand workers engaged in this industry. Child workers are the largest group of the total workers. About 85 percent are Muslims. About 30 percent of the workers are less than 14 years of age and amongst them girls are in a majority. The country earns about Rs. 1400 crores every year through their exports, the largest part of exports going to the U.S.A.

UNICEF, which is concerned with the welfare of children on behalf of the United Nations, has also not yet taken any concrete steps in Rajasthan. In January, 1996, the gem industry, with the help of the state labour department and UNICEF, held a three day seminar at Jaipur. This was attended by all the district Labour Inspectors and some NGOs. It was decided to conduct a survey in the district of Jaipur and Udaipur. During the last six moths no concrete steps have been taken to implement the decision. The Government apathy has not been broken.

About 17 percent of the child labour force in this industry, who come from families steeped in poverty, hunger, illiteracy and helplessness, suffer from breathing troubles, throat and nose infections, pneumonia and tuberculoses, etc. This is the result of unhygienic and crowded work place, humidity, cramped sheds and malnutrition due to insufficient wages. The workers have to use chemicals like aluminum oxide, cerium oxide, stannic oxide, zirconium oxide, etc. The use of these chemicals effects the health of the workers adversely as no steps are taken by the employers to educate the workers about them, nor are they provided with any protective gear. We could not get hold of any health survey report but the children generally reported pain in the joints, dizziness, heaviness in the head, sight disorders, back pain, shoulder pain, and finger deformities.

The business is generally run by the Marway and Gujarati business people and they directly siphon-off about 60 percent of the fruits of the labour of these working children and others. Thought amongst the workers the majority are Muslims, among the owners they are a small minority. Muhammed Razzak of Babu Ka Teeba told us that there is a lack of education amongst Muslims, and greater poverty therefore, many of them are not equipped to own and run a business. Amongst them the size of the family is also larger. Only now the community has woken up to the need of education and are trying to send the children to Madarasas. They hope to take advantage of their knowledge of the craft in the times to come to enter the business.

According to Chandra Prakash Gupta, general secretary of RSSAS and Joseph Gathia, the National President of CLAN, they have made some recommendations to the government which may help restore their childhood to the children engaged in this industry. They recommend that the gem industry should be surveyed immediately to find out the number of children working in it, other details of the working conditions, an their socio-economic background; the government should help those running the industry in purchase of raw material and sale of the finished product; organizing cooperative societies wherever necessary; relocation in the industrial units in more open and healthier surroundings; exploitation by the middle persons under the garb of training programmes should be checked; government should implement free and compulsory education for children between the ages of 6 and 14 years; children of families under the poverty line should be given special help by way of text books, exercise books, dress, and scholarships, etc.; children from these families should be health tested every month and malnourished children should be provided a balance diet; vocational training should start after the age of 15 years and if any guardian or agent on crafts-person puts any child under this age to work he should be prosecuted under the provisions of appropriate laws; parents should be made aware of the usefulness of vocational training; if a family craft is carried on at home children may be allowed to work in it as a hobby provided they attend training regularly; local vigilance committees should be formed to oversee the utilization of government aid in government and NGOs projects and such committees should have local social activists and retired persons as members.

It has been observed that the labour department generally prosecuted people under the provisions of old laws. In this case old laws do no identify the gem trade as hazardous. Children are working up to 10 to 14 hours a day, but the practice is not checked. 43 percent families do not have any literate person. Girls are not sent to school even if they want to.

One can legitimately ask how the National Human Rights Commission and the courts can compel the State government to perform its duty? How can the government he compelled not to play with the future of lakhs of children?

II

Life Entangled in the Web of Threads: 37 kilometers to the north-east of Jaipur is situated the Jamwa Pamgarh Tehsil which falls in the Dausa Loksabha constituency. There was a time when the area was covered with dense forests and wild animals roamed about. Now it has bare rocks and dry land which is ruled by liquor mafia and educated business persons. Around this valley there are about 13 hundred wooden looms manufacturing rugs in the villages of Makchaughari-Kharkara, Khaurani, Jodhrala, Palrikhurd, Bans, Goreth, Andhi, Raisar, and Gurjarthari, etc.

Girls and boys belonging to Meena, Raighar, Harijan, Gurjar, Thakur such castes work in this industry from 8 in the morning to 6 in the evening so that the families may earn a few rupees. One can see Pappo, Phula, Kishore, Suman, and so many other unnamed girls who are fighting the battle of poverty with their delicate and infant fingers on the looms getting in return rupees 5 to 15 per day. This meagre amount is enough for the parents to hypothecate the life of the children with the labour contractor who regularly advances very small sum to make his bookings. The life of the child progresses through a childhood full of fear, work, anxiety, sexual exploitation. This journey from generation to generation is the root of child labour, though there are many other causes also which play their own role in perpetuating poverty. Not many years ago this region was not so poor. With the advent of development programmes the present state of poverty started raising its head! Naturally the victims were the poor belonging to lower castes and groups the largest number to lower castes and groups, the largest number being that of children, and amongst them girls.

Under the present model of economic development in our country the poorer sections of the society have to bear suffering and the upper sections enjoy its fruits. Carpet industry is an old industry but the globalisation of the economy has resulted in the introduction of child labour in it. In U.P. many NGOs took an active interest against use of child labour and attracted the attention of the developed countries that were importing carpets from Mirzapur. They threatened to stop the import of carpets made with the child labour and consequently the State Government and the Central Government had to tighten the implementation of laws preventing child labour. The Rajasthan Government, on the other hand, is still overlooking the problem. The Labour Department of the State has showed no concern for the welfare of the children working in carpet making. They have no statistics. According to Shri Joseph Gathia about 30% of the total carpet trade is centered in Rajasthan and the use of child labour is widespread. The State Government as well as the traders engaged in the manufacture of carpets are earning huge amounts.

Amongst the child workers in this trade in Rajasthan the percentage of girls is about 90, whereas in Mirzapur the percentage of girls is less than 10, This makes the problem of investigation and consequent action more difficult. It also underlines the necessity of preventive work as exploitation of girls has more dimensions than in the case of boys. Pushing the girls upto the margin of existence also condemns the future generation. A very large percentage of the child workers is from tribal sections. The tribals are being exploited otherwise also. The total result is that after about 50 years of independence this section of society is at the lowest rung of development. One hopes that the United Front government will wake up the problem and take some action.

RSSAS has investigated the conditions of child labour for about six months in and around Jaipur, specially in gem and carpet industries. It is of the opinion that the following steps can go a long way in improving the situation in this regard. It is strongly of the opinion that the poor families should not be allowed a exploit the children for improving their economic projects. The proper place for the children's is the play field and/or the school and not the work place. The following points are based on this approach:- 1. Children should not be allowed t o work and in order to make up this loss their families should be offered additional avenues for supplementing their income. 2. All children between the ages of 6 and 14 years should be enrolled in schools and efforts should be made to see that dropping out of the school becomes unattractive along with making the school more attractive. Special emphasis should be placed on the education of girls for which larger number of women teacher should be appointed. This will also meet the objections of some parents who do not want their daughters to study along with boys. 3. Employers of children in hazardous trades/industry should be severely dealt with. The inspecting machinery should itself be always under scrutiny; punishment in their case should be more serious. 4. There should be an ongoing and lively awareness programme for the education of parents, children, and the lower level planning and implementation machinery with regard to child labour and laws and the necessity of primary education. 5. Vigilance Committees at the local level should be formed and should consist of workers, teachers, health-workers, development officials, village pradhans, etc.

III

Child Sex Workers: We have already mentioned in the previous section the development model that pushes the. IN this consumerism also plays its role. Their traditional role and place in the social structure is under threat because of non-implementation of land reform and rural development scheme. Increasing economic pressures are compelling them to cater to the needs of new social dispensation. In this regard it may be noted that is some section of rural society in Rajasthan, prostitution has spread on a wider scale as a result of attraction of the glitter of urban life and development of internal and foreign tourism.

It is estimated that here are about 2.5 million sex workers in the country and out of these slightly less than half a million are 768 girl sex workers in the category of children and has put out some eye opening facts. They have found that of these about 48 percent were pushed into in procession by 'friends'. About 33 percent are the victims of relatives' machinations. About 50 percent of the cases were of those who started working here at the age of 14 to 15 years; 42 percent between the ages of 11 to 13 years and the reset were less than this age group when they were pushed into this life of degradation. Some girls of under the age of 7 0r 8 years are sent to learn etiquette. There are some social groups in Rajasthan who have been traditionally contributing to the flesh trade. The practice has been that the girls from these groups have to cater to the base needs of the upper section of the society. One such groups that of Nutts. These people are generally concentrated in the areas of Alwar, Jaipur, Malbalaa, etc. These people live in clusters outside the village. Mahalla is about 13 kilometers from Jaipur on the Jaipur-Ajmer highway (some people also call it Maila). This place caters to the demands of outsiders who visit here specially to exploit their women.

There are about 100 households. Every family is a part of this tradition which has now turned into a trade which is carried on without any secrecy or hush-hush manner. Young, well built and impressive male members of the family can be seen sitting around the houses in the doors of which one can see little girls wearing colourful clothes, deep red lipstick, and nail polish. Underneath these appearances is degradation, helplessness, and even revulsion writ large in the atmosphere. The males sitting nearby tend to ignore crude efforts to attract visitors. We talked to many of them. Many others were not prepared to talk. We were told that the adults sitting outside, males and females both, were parents and relatives but no identification were ever made, showing that basically the whole setting was considered to be, to say the least, a compulsion. Some of them told us that at times a girl goes out to far away bigger cities to work in the profession there. They regularly send the wherewithal for little items of conspicuous consumption. The houses of such families are better and have such equipment. These girls even visit home now and then.

We came across two or three girls, around 15 or 16 years of age, with infants in their lap. This next generation is without fathers. We were told that in these localities children have only mothers. These girls work in the profession for a period of 10 to 12 years, after that they become unattractive and slowly they are discarded. This is the beginning of a life of neglect and deprivation. This is a life full of suffering and illness; this is the time when they push their daughters, if any, into this work. In this way it has been going on from generation to generation.

Child prostitution is the worst form of degradation of children, the most despicable form of child labour.

We were told that in this habitation one could get tea, coca cola, namakeen, cigarettes. The client is charged the fee agreed upon in advance. If he tries to cheat, the brother or any other guardian sitting at the door takes care of him.

About two or three kilometers away there are Gujars and Meena cast groups. But they are unconcerned with what happens here and simply call it a place of ill repute. The state government had opened a school but that is in a bad shape.

There are some more families in the Saudala region of Jaipur near the highway culvert which are carrying on this profession. The leading newspaper of the state Rajasthan Patrika is full of items about the operation and exploitation of young girls engaged in this work.

It was expected that spread of education after independence will open the doors of development and equality for women also, especially in the rural areas and amongst the poorer sections of society. But it seems that development has passed by these sections of the society.

Child labour and especially the degradation of the female child seems to be receiving no special attention outside the programmes of publicity and poster campaigns. WHO and UNICEF have written high sounding exhortations, which are duly reflected in the programmes and reports of the concerned Ministers of our country, but nothing seems to have been done on the ground level.

During the last 10 years tourism has increased and with it has come the scourge of AIDS. In Rajasthan old forts and havelis are being turned into high class and fashionable, tourist resorts. This has brought the wave of T.V., cinema, and consumerism to the surrounding rural areas also. All these have a combined effect to link these areas to urban child labour and child prostitution market.

It is estimated that about three lakh prostitutes under the age of 16 years in Indian brothels are from Nepal. We are told that a large percentage of prostitution in Pakistan are from Bangladesh. Such facts relate poverty to this type of exploitation.

RSSAS has said in another of its reports that in Delhi child degradation in the hutments and massage parlours etc. is flourishing, exploitation of domestic workers of young age is also not uncommon. Most of the workers in these areas are the poor migrants from states like Rajasthan, Orissa, and Tamil Nadu. We are of the opinion that this attitude of neglect towards child prostitution needs to be attacked at every front, including rehabilitation homes, children'' homes, children'' jails, and everywhere else. In the end we may underline some of the important points that merge after the present survey; there is a need of a widespread and intense programme to educate/opinion, specially the people in the areas where this activity goes on where this activity goes on where some families willingly or unwillingly become its victims. This should be a programme of awarence, dignity, and self respect apart from literacy. Legal provisions also need to be changed and strengthened as the existing provisions of Indian Penal Code have proved insufficient to check the evil. Officials at all levels may be held personally responsible if prostitutions in any area continues as an open secret. Programmes of economic uplift, rehabilitation of those who want to come out of the profession, and vocational training for young girls of these areas in schools may be under taken on a war footing. Intensive health checks and preventive treatment to check sexually transmitted diseases may be undertaken on a regular basis. Wherever local or international tourism is being developed, special teams to check the spread of this business and to undertake preventive measures may be set up. The use of children as sex objects is making its appearance in India also and steps may be devised right now to check it.

What is required most is that the district administration and law and order maintaining agencies should be motivated to check these evils in a dedicated manner.


 

 

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