Many children employed in Rajasthan stone quarries


Jodhpur : After a day's back breaking labour in the stone quarry, all that Omaram Meghwal, 17, craves for is a bottle of liquor and opium. He needs them to forget the drudgery he has been into since the age of 13 — like many other children in Rajasthan.

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A report by two NGOs has brought to light the prevalence of child labour in the stone quarries of Rajasthan.

The report, "Tales of Woe", by Gramin Vikas Vigyan Samiti (Gravis) and Health, Environment and Development Consortium (Hedcon), says that most of the children working in quarries start before they are 14 years old, and are paid poorly for 8-10 hours of hard work.

Meghwal is addicted to alcohol, opium, chewing tobacco and bidi (hand-rolled cigarettes).

"I get so tired working in the mines that I cannot sleep unless I drink (liquor)," he says. His statement reflects the physical toil and mental state of the children working in the quarries.

According to the report, despite a law prohibiting the employment of children below 14 years in any factory, mine or hazardous industry, children continue to be employed in the stone quarries of Rajasthan.

They are made to toil in the heat and dust for wages as low as Rs.10-40 – that too for four to eight hours of drudgery.

The Mines (Amendment) Act, 1983, says that anyone below 18 years cannot work in mines.

"A survey conducted in Makrana and Jodhpur mines gives proof that these laws are being flouted openly," the report says.

It also states that the children are not provided the basic facilities of safe drinking water, toilets and shade. They are even denied a weekly day of rest and extra wages for overtime.

Due to these trying conditions, the child labourers take to intoxicants, which further worsens their psychological and physical health, the report says.

The survey found that 60 percent of the children working in stone mines were addicted to tobacco and alcohol.