Valley transportation sector drawing kids into hazardous child labour

Kathmandu, October 7 :

With the growth of public transportation in the Valley, one of the worst forms of child labour is attracting young boys to work as conductors and helpers.

This scenario is visible everywhere, especially at the junctions of Jamal, Ratna Park, Sahid Gate, Lagankhel, Kalanki and other spots in the capital. Fourteen-year-old Ramesh Karki is one of the child labourers working as a conductor in a microbus that ferries passengers between Jamal and Chhabahil. Karki, whose day begins at 5 in the morning, works till 8 at night. His activity in a tempo includes money collection and cleaning the vehicle.

The public transportation includes buses, minibuses, microbuses and tempos. Children employed in this sector are exposed to physical, psychological or sexual abuse, work in an unhealthy environment such as exposure to high temperatures, noise levels or vibrations, which cause damage to their health.

According to the International Labour Organisation, the difficult conditions, such as long work hours, put this sector among work considered hazardous.

According to a CWIN report on Child Labour in Transportation Sector in Nepal in 2005, a total of 2,193 (43.69 per cent) out of 5,019 public transportation have children working as conductors in Kathmandu. The report said 85 per cent of the children have eye problem, 58 per cent suffer from headache due to constant exposure to pollution and dust particles and 29 per cent of them have respiratory problems. These children work 12 hours daily, but earn Rs 98 per day on an average. Apart from the possibility of health hazards, 74 per cent have to face misbehaviour and also financially support their family.

With a view to combating child labour in the transportation sector, a task force comprising eight organisations, namely the Valley Traffic Police, Traffic Police Directorate, Ministry of Labour and Transportation Management, Federation of Transportation Management-Nepal, GEFONT, DECONT, CWIN, Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, Central Police Women Cell, Nation Federation of Transportation Management — Nepal was formed in August. “The first phase of the programme aims to raise awareness through campaigns like stickers and discourage child labour in the sector,” said Dhurba Gautam, programme officer at the CWIN. Gautam added that the objective of the task force is to prevent further engagement of children and remove them from the sector, provide them rehabilitation and social integration through measures, which address their educational, physical and psychological needs.

Pradyumana Karki of the Federation of Transportation Management-Nepal said that children are not employed in a few routes like Naikap to Koteshwore and Thankot. “We are working

on awareness programmes to discourage drivers to employ them. But we consider older boys between 14 and 17, who have been in this sector for long time and want to pursue their livelihood in this sector.