EDITORIAL: Stop child labour

Anyone who uses child labour must be punished by the law and their products must be boycotted as was done with the carpet industries

The Child Right Act, 1992 and the Child Labour Act, 2000 have clear provisions that prohibit engaging children below 18 years of age in organized or unorganized economic sectors that are detrimental to their mental and physical growth, or any kind of work that takes them away from their parents and deprives them of the right to education and wellbeing.

In the early 1990s till 2000 many children were engaged in the carpet industries as their fingers were slender to weave fine carpets; and they could be forced to work for longer hours without paying them for overtime work they did.

This trend, however, gradually changed and the carpet industries ultimately stopped hiring the children in the dust producing sector with the child rights movement gaining momentum within the country and outside where Nepal’s carpets were exported.

The Child Labour Act 2000 strictly prohibits the use of children in tourism related occupations; service oriented occupations; public transportation and construction occupations; work relating to manufacturing and the work relating to production of energy from water resources, air, sunlight, coal, natural oil or gas, biogas and other similar sources and transmission and distribution.

Although the trend of engaging children in carpet industries has stopped with the closure of most of them, they are still seen working in brick kilns even within the Kathmandu Valley where the law enforcing bodies can easily stop such back-breaking work if they were sincere.

A very recent report has revealed that there are 108 brick kilns in the Kathmandu Valley – 62 in Bhaktapur, 28 in Lalitpur and 18 in Kathmandu.

The report shows that 974 children were found to be working in Lalitpur, 1,550 in Bhaktapur and 740 children in the Kathmandu-based brick kilns till last year.

Altogether, 3,264 children were engaged in the brick kilns.

The work in the brick kilns is considered to be the most hazardous, difficult and the dirtiest of all. Engaging the children in this sector is a crime in itself, and brick kilns operators should be punished by the law of the land.

The study found that the brick kilns lack daycare and sanitation facilities; they were deprived of education and adolescents were also found engaged in the bad habit of smoking and consuming alcohol.

Most of the children who usually accompany their parents come from 45 impoverished districts and their condition of living is not suitable for the children as they lack enough space to live in.

Another study conducted in 2011 had revealed that there were 750 brick kilns across the country where 200,000 people were engaged in work and 16 percent of them were children working with their parents.

A decade ago there were a total of 2.6 million child labourers in various sectors. It has now reduced to 1.6 million due to rigorous campaigns against the use of child labour.

In order to stop the use of child labour in organized or unorganized economic sectors their parents must be provided with job opportunities at their localities and anyone who uses child labour must be punished by the law and their products must be boycotted as was done with the carpet industries.

Not enough

Despite the crackdown by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), bribe-taking by government employees has not shown any visible sign of abating.

Rabindra Sharma, chief of the CIAA’s regional office in Biratnagar, expressed wonder at this, saying that employees in government offices still expected a bribe for rendering government service to service-seekers.

The main reason for rampant corruption is that corruption has spread tentacles everywhere in our society, and it has taken deep root.

It would be naïve to expect a visible reduction in corruption in government because of an arrest here or some action there.

The anti-graft body needs to demonstrate resolute determination to attack corruption anywhere, not only in cases where bribe-takers are caught red-handed.

CIAA should equally vigorously track those government employees and politicians whose lifestyle and spending far exceed their legitimate sources of income and move immediately to probe such cases.

Sharma is however right in saying that corruption is taking place not due to poverty but due to the lack of honesty and sincerity.

CIAA should now direct its action in this new direction too.