This summer camp is not a vacation. Yet children are in its heat.Thousands of migrant and underprivileged children sowing paddy across the state, while the country observes World Day Against Child Labour-the temperature outside wasn't the only cruel aspect of Tuesday.
Soon, the little ones will become skilful and quick, and be able to cover more acres a day. This is their work training… at the cost of education.
Thousands of parents, in Punjab from the eastern states for sowing paddy, have also brought their children along. Even the native Dalit families are forced to send their children out to the toughest job in farming.
Lucky are the children planning holidays in the mountains. For the poor ones, the summer destination is fields, where they will sow paddy under the burning sun to fill our plates with rice. "We cannot leave them alone at home," said Lakhan Chand, farm labourer from Bilokhidi village in Bihar's Madhopur district. "It is better they work with us, and learn to earn."
Lakhan and his family sow paddy in Bathinda's Gobindpura village. The contact will fetch each between Rs. 1,600 and Rs. 2,000 an acre. Punjab is short of hands for work, and the more acres they cover, the more money they make.
Time is limited, so the migrants have pushed even their children into hard labour. "It's impossible for us to send them to school," said Lakhan. "Most of the times, we are moving from one place to another. Yahi to karna hai padhne ke baad bhi, fir time kharab kyon karna (this is what they have to do even after education, so why waste time). They'll know at what cost the money is minted."
The labourer parents of Punjab calm their children work in the fields only during the summer break in schools. They are only trying to save their skin. "When children are pushed into labour, it scars their mind," said educationist Karnail Singh.