KATHMANDU, July 31
‘Kalanki, Ratna Park, Purano Bus Park!’ shouts Dil Bahadur Karki, 14, a mircobus conductor of Thankot-Purano Bus Park route at the various stop points for picking up and dropping commuters.
Karki is a runaway kid of Ramechap who was lured by city life. A third-grader school dropout, he opted to become a conductor with the ambition of becoming a driver in future.
Becoming a conductor has brought him quick bucks, daily meals and clothes. “It has been four months since I ran away from home. It is nice to be away from a poor family and to live on my own. I make around Rs 100 a day,” he said.
Rudra Kafle, the driver said, “The boy is very smart. He has learnt much about steering control, changing tyres and drives the micro-bus for short distances.” Karki had requested Kafle for the job of a conductor citing everyday expenses for food, clothes and shelter.
Deepak Ghalan, 14, of Makawanpur, recently became a conductor of a micro-van on the Satdobato-Ratnapark route. The young lad could not recognise a five-rupee note and would constantly ask the driver about its value. He would also forget to return the change.
There are about 400 children working as conductors, more than 7,000 engage in transport sector
“It has just been three days since I worked as a conductor. I still forget the names of places and to return money to the passengers,” he said. Child conductors are a common sight in the vehicles of Kathmandu.
According to Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, there are about 400 children working as conductors.
The NGO Child Workers in Nepal claims that there are more than 7,000 children engaged in the transport sector and most of them are child conductors. Padam Thapa, a non-gazetted second class officer at the Social Welfare Department of Kathmandu Metropolitan City informed that child conductors are mostly common in micro-vans plying on the Ratnapark-Jorpati, Kapan-Budhanilkantha and Kalanki-Thankot routes.
“Transport entrepreneurs and drivers exploit these young blood with meagre wages, scold and intimidate them. Children are easier to control than adult conductors and they are easier to lure with the promise of driver training and meals,” he said.
Child conductors have to work from 6:00am to 8:00pm and they are not paid wages by most of the drivers.
He suggested that the traffic police should strongly monitor vehicles and rescue child conductors at each bus stop.
Tarak Dhital, executive director of Central Child Welfare Board said that child conductors should be rescued by social workers and traffic police. Children below 18 years of age are not supposed to work for their living. “Drivers who hire children as conductors should be booked to minimise the number of child conductors in the Valley,” he said.
A version of this article appears in print on August 01, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.