New Delhi : Pramod is all of nine. His tender age, however, does not give him the luxury of a carefree and fun-filled life. He and his younger brother toil on the streets of Delhi, selling cigarette and other tobacco products for a living.
“My family is very poor and there is not much scope to earn a decent living in my village in Kanpur,” Pramod told IANS, working in a kiosk in the INA market in south Delhi.
“That’s why I and my brother came to Delhi a year back and we have been selling cigarettes here to earn some money,” he added.
Said his younger brother, who said he was aged eight: “If we had enough money we wouldn’t have come here on our own… Maybe we could have gone to school.”
Even as the nation observes World Day Against Child Labour June 12, hundreds of children continue to toil away on the streets, in eateries, shops and homes in Delhi and elsewhere.
According to government estimates, the number of child labourers in the country is 12.6 million. But the civil society puts the number much higher – at 60 million.
In Delhi, child rights activists say there are more than 500,000 children still trapped in the clutches of labour in various industries. More than 100,000 are employed as domestic helps.
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14.
The railway station in the capital is another place where a number of child labourers can be seen – either picking rags or selling things like water bottles.
Ramvishwas, 12, is a runaway kid from Bihar who tried to escape from the clutches of poverty and came to Delhi. He now sells water bottles at the New Delhi Railway Station.
“I want to learn, I want to study but I can only dream of it,” he said.
Vishal, 15, hails from Uttar Pradesh and came to Delhi in 2005. He then started working at a tea stall.
“I have been working here for five years. It’s not out of choice… when you have nothing to eat, you will do anything to stay alive,” Vishal said, sounding way mature than his age.
Vishal is not interested in going to school.
A number of children who are barely in their teens also send a portionof their earnings back home from where they have migrated.
Said 13-year-old Mintoo Kumar, who sells candies in the Malviya Nagar market in south Delhi: “I have been selling ice candies along with my brother since 2007. I send half the money to my parents in Bihar.”