Hyderabad: Mahbubnagar is witnessing appalling distress of children amid a serious agrarian crisis. It has the largest number of child workers. Around 1,000 children have been pushed into child labour, bonded labour and begging in the last four years in Mahbubnagar. Of these, 98 per cent belong to agrarian families, according to data compiled by the District Child Protection Unit.
The data revealed that six girl children were sold and around 100 forced into child marriage. Over 170 kids were abandoned by their families. And these are kids rescued by enforcement agencies with the unit’s assistance since 2012.
According to Mahbubnagar SP Rema Rajeswari, 62 child labourers were rescued in a week-long special drive this month. “The numbers from DCPU show the seriousness of the situation. Many children are employed in construction sites, brick kilns, shops, garages, dhabas and chicken shops. Their parents have sent them to work,” she said. The police conduct drives to rescue children.
The police and childline officials say that areas like Doultabad, Narayanpet, Kodangal, Kosgi, Bomraspet, Gopalpet, Pangal, Wanaparthy, Balmoor, Lingala, Achampet, Ghattu, Devarakadra, Koilkonda, Nawabpet, Mahbubnagar are the places where most of the children are employed.
The children are also sent to work in Hyderabad, RR and other districts. When RR police rescued child labourers from brick kilns recently, most of them were found to be from Mahbubnagar district.
Child Welfare Committee and Childline officials said the school dropout rate and child labour were linked. “Most parents do not want their children to study. Kids drop out from UP schools and are sent to work,” said DCPU chief Narmada.
Poverty crushing children
The failure of agriculture, extreme unemplyment and the resultant poverty and the ongoing exodus from Mahbubnagar are stated to be the reasons for the poor state of the children in the district.
Many families are unable to make ends meet, and force their children to work.
When the parents migrate to Hyderabad, Mumbai or other places to find work, the children are left with grandparents or other family members, who send them to work.
Many parents who borrow from financiers for farming pledge their kids for labour in various places. “Many of these parents send their kids to work in order to repay their debt to private moneylenders. Since they are low-paying jobs, both the parents and kids need to work to earn a livelihood,” said Mahbubnagar superintendent of police Rema Rajeswari.
Childline officials said the parents of more than half the children they rescued had migrated to cities. “While living with the grandparents or other relatives, these kids are sent to work. Some kids drop out, some never go to school,” said Mr Chandra Sekhar Gannoji, director, Childline Mahbubnagar.
Among the reasons for the children to drop out is the long distance to schools. The district has few residential schools. In the off season, most farmers are compelled to work as daily wage labour at construction site or brick kilns. They bring their kids to work for extra pay since the district has the lowest wages in the state.