Nine-year-old Tara Kumari works at a stone crushing plant in Tupudana, barely 30 kilometres from Ranchi. She takes home Rs 600 every week, working nine hours a day.
“I am working here to earn some money to buy new clothes for myself,” says Kumari whose father also works at the same plant.
Kumari, whose job requires her to transfer processed rocks into a machine in an atmosphere rendered hazy by the hazardous dust, is one of the thousands of child labourers in Jharkhand.
With Kailash Satyarthi winning the Nobel Peace prize recently, the issue of child labour and child rights has once again regained focus. But it is hard to tell whether it will change the lot of the children like Kumari.
According to a January 2014 report of the National Sample Survey, 6.7% of Jharkhand children in the 5-14 age group are working in homes, restaurants, stone crushing plants, mines, construction sites and as marginal labourers in the agriculture sector.
“There are at least four lakh children below 14 years of age in the state who work in different sectors,” said Baidyanath Kumar, a child rights activist in the state.
Kumar said that while poverty might be a reason behind child labour, lack of development and poor implementation of child welfare policies were the main culprits.
“Many children also migrate out of the state to work alongside their parents in brick-kilns and sugar factories in places like Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal,” said Ajay Kumar Jaiswal, secretary of Association for Social and Human Awareness, an NGO.
Jharkhand had formed a Child Labour Commission (CLC) in 2002 to prevent and eliminate child labour. However, it only became functional two days ago.
Sanjay Mishra, member of State Commission for Protection of Child Rights and a member of CLC said, “We have notified all the districts to constitute a child rescue team which will help rescue child labourers. We will also be forming a migration resource centre for migrant labourers by the end of this month.”
Inspector general of police and Jharkhand police spokesperson Anurag Gupta said that once brought to their notice, both police and labour department should act against the guilty employers.
"We will certainly look into cases and take punitive actions," he said.