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The truth about Mizoram's children
November 27, 2006 11:15 IST
Necessity, they say, is the mother of all inventions.
It was only necessity that forced Nancy Malsaumtluangi to hide his age and pass off as an adult to earn bread and butter for his family and afford a decent education.
Welcome to Mizoram -- a peaceful and modern state in the northeast where child workers are dime a dozen.
Hundreds of minors work in tea stalls and even vend tobacoo products. Incidentally, the Supreme Court has banned sale of these products by children.
Not only child labour, incidence of sexual and physical torture on minors has been rising alarmingly in the state for the past few years, which is relatively higher than in any other state of the northeast.
Nancy, a teenager, treks 2 km to the capital city every day to vend cigarettes and Myanmarese-household items but he does not treat himself as a child labourer.
''I work voluntarily to earn something to support my ailing mother and pay for my own education,'' Nancy says.
Says Vanramchhuangi, a member of Mizoram Social Welfare Committee and president of Aizawl based Human Rights & Law Network: ''The menace is rampant in Mizoram but we cannot do anything because officially no child is being forced to work. Poverty is forcing them to work at a tender age.''
She stated that though the Supreme Court had issued directive that laws on child labour are to be upheld sternly, it is at a loss on how to uphold them; if the administration cracks the whip, poor families will starve.
''If the government stops me from working, I will not have money for my education and to run my family,'' said Paroti Zolani, an eighth standard student.
According to a study conducted under Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, a majority of these children hawk consumer goods in the market and offices while, a section of them are employed at tea stalls, vehicle repairing workshops and stone quarries in different parts of the state.
Apart from Mizo children, Bengali, Manipuri and Myanmari boys are also working across the state but no comprehensive study has yet been made to specify the figure of child labour.
''Upholding the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act strictly in Mizoram will not solve the problem,'' Mahlimi Hamar, a Psychologist at the Centre for Peace and Development says.
''International laws on child labour have been highly insensitive to local and regional issues even though the International Labour Organisation has made a sweeping ban on buying products made by children but it cannot be a one size fits all policy.'' The social welfare department officials here stated that the Centre had initiated a move of 'learning while earning' policy following the suggestion from child labour-ridden states.
A tribal-dominated state, Mizoram has the second highest literacy rate in the country -- after Kerala -- but it has lately become a state where crimes against children have increased.
Many such cases are swept under the carpet due to fear of social ostracism.A recent study conducted by the Mizoram Social Welfare Department and two civil society organisations revealed that on an average, 10 girl children are sexually abused every year while incidents of rape and murder of minors have increased and the situation seems to be deteriorating.