Child porters wary of their family woes

Kathmandu, January 11:

The full time short-distance child porters, who carry half the weight of the adults porters carry, have a sense of responsibility towards family and aspire to migrate to big cities in India to generate more income.

A 15-year-old Ramji Bhujel, his first cousin Gopal Bhujel, 16, two child porters in Kalimati Fruit and Vegetable Market ferry loads to support their families back in Nalang village of Dhading.

Their day starts at 2 am in the morning to catch the vehicles that bring in vegetables from various districts. “We carry loads up to 70 kgs to assist the green grocers till 9 am,” said Ramji, adding that they collect Rs 250 on an average at the end of the day.

“We come from economically backward farmer families and do not grow enough food to meet other expenses,” said Gopal. “We have experience of living and working in Kathmandu, we hope to work in India and earn more money as our elders,” they added.

These drop-outs from Sidheshwari High School in Nalang, have been supporting their families for the last four years and make sure that their younger siblings attend school.

Krishna Magar, 16, who hails from Nuwakot said he landed to Kathmandu to work in restaurants but ended up being a porter. “Though we have backaches, headaches, we are not unsatisfied with the job. Most of the time, we get to cook fresh vegetables at free of cost,” he said. Magar also added that this job in bigger cities would fetch more earnings.

According to International Labour Organisation (ILO) 2000 report, there are 3,900 short-distance child porters in Nepal, most are boys between the ages of 10 and 17 years of age.

The law prohibits minors from carrying more than 25 kilos. The report said, the child porters face a number of serious health risks: increased heart, circulatory and digestive problems; tuberculosis; malnutrition and stunted growth; chronic leg and back pain; and a life expectancy shortened by as much as 20 to 30 years.

The government has expressed its commitment to eliminating the worst forms of child labour, and also has ratified the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, No 182.