Minors work as labourers under MGNREGA scheme

Children working as labourers during road construction at Sekiyan village of Boniyar in Uri area of Baramulla district. —Excelsior/Aabid Nabi
Children working as labourers during road construction at Sekiyan village of Boniyar in Uri area of Baramulla district. —Excelsior/Aabid Nabi

Excelsior Correspondent
SRINAGAR, Dec 4: Poverty stricken children are working as labourers in the road construction work that is being carried out under Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme by Government in a remote village of Boniyar in Uri area of North Kashmir’s Baramulla district even as child labour in a legal offence.
From 12 to 17 years of age, the five school-going children are working everyday as labourers at Sekiyan, which is close to Line of Control (LoC) in Boniyar and they are paid Rs 250 everyday as wages. The children said they are working voluntarily, citing poverty as reason. “I am 12 year old. I am working as labourer because of poverty. I have an aged father and mother. Besides I have a brother younger to me. I earn Rs 250 from 9 AM to 4 PM,” said Imtiyaz Ahmad Khattana of Palipora. He said they are paid everyday by the contractor and help their families financially.
The children, who work as labourers, said they often skip school for work. “Poverty forced me to work. I assist my father because I have three younger sisters and mother,” said another boy, Showkat Ahmad. When asked why he is skipping school, his said: “We are poor.”
The contractor, Muhammad Iqbal, said these children voluntarily seek work and he pays them Rs 250 for a day. “These children are 12, 14, 15 and 16 years of age. They do this work because of poverty back home,” he said. He also said that some of them appear in exams after attending tuitions.
Asked why he is employing the children despite knowing that child labour is illegal, the Contractor said: “I know it is a crime. They come here at their own will. Their parents come to us and say there is no problem if these children work. Their basic issue is poverty otherwise they too would have been in schools.”
Despite repeated attempts, Rural Development Minister Abdul Haq Khan and Deputy Commissioner Baramulla did not respond to calls by Excelsior.

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