Even as the state government claims to be running several campaigns against child labour, its officials in the education department turned a blind eye to it, on Saturday, at the Mata Gujri College which is hosting the state-level primary school games.
More than 2,700 students are in town for the games, but for two kids, all between 10 and 12, it was just another day in their laboured life.
Bunty and Rinku were seen lifting and cleaning up the garbage left behind the grounds after the ceremonies and events. When questioned as to who had employed them, they said the contractor had, claiming that they had not been paid.
Shockingly, even as HT spoke to them, the district education officer (secondary) and DEO (elementary) were seen watching the children work, but chose not to intervene.
"Given a chance, we would also like to study. But we do not have enough resources and are jealous when we see other children play games," one of them said, as they again went back to work - collecting wrappers and garbage.
When approached, DEO (E) Malkit Singh said, "We have not employed any child to work for us during the event. If any kid is found working, then it is not because of the education department. The conduct of the games has been outsourced and the contractor is responsible for everything."
Later, the reporter received repeated calls from the education department, requesting that the matter not be reported.
Education minister expresses displeasure at arrangements
State education minister Daljit Singh Cheema has expressed displeasure over the poor arrangements for the boarding and lodging of students participating in the state-level primary school games.
Cheema conducted a check at Mata Gujri Senior Secondary School and Mata Gujri serai and ordered the DEO (secondary), DEO (elementary) and deputy director (sports) to ensure best facilities for the students who were participating in the games. Cheema checked the rooms of the players and interacted with them to enquire about the facilities being provided to them. Peeved at the poor facilities given to the budding players, Cheema said that the state government was duty-bound to ensure a comfortable and pleasant stay for the players who had come from far off to participate in the games.
Cheema asked the officers to ensure that no player faced any problem during their stay in the state and warned the officials that he would again visit the premises to ensure that arrangements were made properly and if any laxity was found on their part, stern action would follow.