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Sport Players Enjoy Life on Backs of Child Workers

April 20, 2002 · 

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Uluberia, West Bengal, India — The sheer exploitation of child labour is apparent when one visits Rajapur, a nondescript place in Uluberia, Howrah, where nearly one fifth of the children are employed to prepare shuttlecocks. They get meagre amounts in lieu of their hard work.

Three to four new shuttlecock factories are coming up here every year. The number of these small-scale factories is around 60, with eight such factories being established last year. Besides these factories, the children also work in different houses in the area, where manufacture of shuttlecocks is turning into a cottage industry.

“After the early demise of my father, I had no option but to choose this job to earn a living. I have been in the trade for two years and used to get Rs 33 for cutting every thousand feathers.

I cut 1,100 to 1,200 feathers on an average day,” said 12-year-old Mithun Adhikary, who has been appointed to cut the feathers by scissors by 1/2 inches.

“While working we often cut our fingers with these sharp scissors, but no compensation is ever given,” rued Ajoy Mondol, 12, whose brother is also in this trade.

Literacy drive seems meaningless for these children. “The question of two proper meals a day is the priority. We do want to go to schools, but abject poverty does not permit us. We start our day as early as 7 in the morning. There is a lunch-break for an hour and again we resume work till 8 in the evening,” said Abhijit Bera, 13.

Though, the district administration is aware of employment of children in the industry, but keeping the unemployment problem in mind it is unwilling to take any action as “shuttle cock making is not health hazardous as notified by the labour department of government of India.”

However, “we are trying to bring these children under our Sarva Siksha Abhiyan beginning next month,” said Howrah district magistrate Vivek Kumar.

“It requires 26 phases to prepare a complete cock. Children are employed at every phase of the process. They are quite useful due to their soft hands,” said Basudeb Khan, owner of 18-year-old ‘Khan shuttle cock centre’ where, 25 children hardly in their teens are working at present.

“We are not abusing the children, as they are above the age of 14,” argued S Neogi. (From the files of The Economic Times)

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