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Home / India News / 2007 / May 2007 / May 5, 2007
Child labour still being flouted in Bihar.
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Child labour still being flouted in Bihar.

Child labour, though unlawful, is accepted as a fact of life in Bihar.

By Ajay Kumar

Patna, May 5 : Child labour, though unlawful, is accepted as a fact of life in Bihar.

Children, as young as five-year-olds, can be easily found struggling in horrendous conditions as servants, carpet weavers, stone crushers, rag-pickers or helpers in road-side eateries to earn a measly amount of 20 rupees (less than half-a-dollar) for a day.

Many of these underage children are sole earners of family.

"I sell vegetables so that I can save enough money for my sister's marriage," said Sunny, an 11-year-old boy.

"I want to study but cannot afford to go to school. I am the only earning member in my family and if I don't work, we would have to starve," said Manoj, a 13-year-old boy.

A lot of children from various parts of Bihar continue to work as child labourers despite a Central Government's law providing for imprisonment or monetary fine or both for child labour.

A recent legislation banned employing children under the age of 14 at roadside food stalls or as domestic helps.

The new ban provided legal protection to millions more children. Anyone found violating the law could face up to two years' jail and a maximum fine of 20,000 rupees (about 500 dollars) or both.

The State Government, however, claims to be taking sufficient action to curb the menace.

"Children doing labour are freed by the police and sent to their families. If they express a desire to study, we make arrangements for their educational pursuits. And, we also use (security) force to free the kids working as bonded labourers from the clutches of employers," said Rameshwar Paswan, Welfare Minister, Bihar.

Despite State Government's exaggerated claims of enforcing anti-child labour laws, the child labour continues.

According to the Central Labour Ministry, there are 12 million children under 14 years of age working in India-- the largest such group in the world.

Data released by the Central Government late last year indicated the largest number of working children in the country is in Uttar Pradesh with a figure of 19.27 lakh (about 2 million). Andhra Pradesh has the second largest working children population, followed by Rajasthan and Bihar.


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