Too heavy a load

Smuggling across the porous Indo-Nepal border has been a problem for a long time. Besides, the report that children, especially of ages 12 to 15, are being used to carry contraband across the border makes it more serious. It is estimated that at least 100 children are currently involved in the racket. It is reported that several children of Chhapkaiyan, Inaruwa, Alau and other villages in Birgunj walk for miles carrying the goods unaware of the law, just to earn Rs 50 to 100 a day. Moreover, the parents too are said to be forcing their children into such illegal activities in the hope of generating extra income to meet the household expenses.

Why the children in particular have been mobilised and lured to this nefarious profession is simple. Since the customs team and the police do not often suspect the children and seldom confiscate the things hidden in their school bags, the minors can easily escape through the check posts. But this is a clear violation of Nepal’s Child Rights Act 2048 B.S. and is also against various international labour conventions that forbid children below the age of 14 from taking up any hazardous job. The government along with the security forces and the countless child-based NGOs and INGOs should take note of it and do something to stem this as soon as possible.

Since the problem is associated with the harsh economic compulsions of the marginalised and the exploited, it can only be solved by addressing the root causes that compel the poor to send their wards for illegal or dangerous work. Unless the state is able to break the vicious circle of poverty, from which the majority of the Nepalis just do not seem to have a way out, the problem will persist. Innocent children, especially the underprivileged ones, would continue to be used as human shields by those engaged in conflicts and be forced into prostitution too. This is a larger humanitarian issue and justice can be done to the children only when the government addresses the social ills that surround the less fortunate ones.