Worst of it all

Of many evils that Nepal has been forced to struggle with, child labour is probably the worst

of it all. And it seems that it is here to stay for a long time, as this year too on the World Day Against Child Labour, the experts from home and abroad said that the prospects of reducing child labour and meeting the government’s aim to eliminate child labour in mines by 2014 in Nepal is still grim. Since there exists hardly any form of alternative employment opportunities for the poor parents of these children, the families are compelled to send their young ones to factories for hazardous works. According to the ILO statistics, some 10,000 children, majority below 13 years of age, work in stone quarries, coal mines, sand mines and red soil mines and earn mere Rs 60 a day. Though many programmes have been launched to empower and educate them on social, health and labour rights, due to lack of awareness and poverty child labourers seem uninterested in them. It is clear that all government plans to protect children from severe forms of child labour and exploitation have not succeeded.

In Nepal, since long minors have been exploited in one form or another. They have been deprived of a lot of things that make for a happy and a secured childhood. Child abuse by paedophiles and rape cases are now rampant in the country. The Maoists too have been using the children as human shields since the launch of their “People’s War.” Given the harsh realities facing the children, who are often called the “pillars of the nation,” only long-term and concerted efforts geared to their welfare can eliminate child labour. This requires bringing appropriate changes in the living conditions of the village folks, as causes of socio-economic hardships often lay in the very structure of the society. It all boils down to the basic concept of economic empowerment of the rural poor, which seems to have taken a back stage at this time, thanks in the main to political instability. Conflicts apart, children should not be the ones to bear the brunt of any war, nor should they be left uncared for as the nation’s future truly hinges on their upbringings. The government, local bodies and all organisations involved in protection of child rights should waste no time in coming together to end child labour.