Assam kids skip classes to sign up for stone-lifting, reveals school’s special team
The head teacher of Chandranathpur ME School (which is located near Jathinga River) has claimed that children are being used for illegally lifting stones from the river and these children skip classes on those days when they get work. With the help of a child helpline, they have rescued several such children in past too.
Hundreds of schoolgoing children in Assam’s Cachar district have been found lifting stones by skipping classes, as per reports of a school’s special team which rescued a few minor kids from child labour. These children were being used for lifting stones on the banks of the Jathinga River.
The head teacher of Chandranathpur ME School (which is located near Jathinga River) has claimed that children are being used for illegally lifting stones from the river and these children skip classes on those days when they get work. With the help of a child helpline, they have rescued several such children in past too. They are also trying to convince the parents so that they can stop the practice.
Speaking to Hindustan Times he said, “This is not the first time that we rescued school students from this hazardous job. In the past also several students skipped classes and when we investigated the matter, we found them lifting stones instead of attending their classes.”
Cachar district’s economy is dependent on stone lifting which gives a big amount of revenue to the government as well, according to the district forest officer (DFO) of Cachar, Tejas Mariswami. He informed that, major sources of stones are in Cachar, Madhura, Jatinga, Chiri and Tikol. All of them are tributaries of Barak River.
“A large number of construction works is going on in the district by both private players and government. The requirement given by the government this year is 1.5 lakh cubic metres and the demand is increasing. We are trying to explore more areas to meet the demand for stone,” he said.
“Most of the families residing near that area are dependent on stone lifting to earn their livelihood. Five Mahaldars (private agencies which lift and supply stone) are involved apart from government agencies. They employ local people but we have strictly instructed them not to involve minors in this. If school students are being involved in it, we’ll take proper steps to prevent the move,” Mariswami added.
A lady from Udharbond area in Cachar district (without revealing her name) said, “My 8-year-old daughter goes to school and I want her to get an education. But I am a single mother and I have an infant to feed along with my daughter. I take my kids along and my daughter contributes in my work.”
She informed that they keep collecting stones for the entire week and trucks come once to collect those. “The more we collect, the more we add to our total income. People give me advice but nobody helps in tough moments,” she added.
Junaid Ahmed Mazumder from the child helpline department has informed that there is a tendency of involving minor kids in various jobs in the society. But they don’t have the proper details.
“It is not just stone lifting; kids are getting involved in so many other work and most of them are with the consent of their parents. It is very tough to convince the kid when their parents themselves are pushing them to jobs which are not meant for minors. In most of the cases they get deprived of their right to education. We conduct drives to stop it but there is a need of mass awareness among the parents,” he said.
Labour commissioner of Cachar district, Pretty Nunisa said they were not aware of the fact that students were skipping classes. She informed that there is a special task force in Cachar to prevent child labour but the activities are less due to Covid-9.
“Our task force is headed by the deputy commissioner of Cachar. We have rescued kids on several occasions but in most of the cases, the family’s economic condition is the reason for child labour.”