Participants in public hearing make shocking revelations

Vijay Kumar is forced to take up the job of his father who suffered heart attack while working in a mine; a fifth-class drop-out M. Veerraju is helping his mother to clear the loan taken for his sister's marriage; Anil Kumar and his elder brother are working in a quarry after the pollution took the life out of his father and severely damaged his mother's lungs. The list of the children affected by mining goes on.

The public hearing on mining and its impact on children, organised by Samata, Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL) and the mine, minerals and people organisations here on Friday, brought to light more shocking facts when Vijay Kumar, Veerraju and other boys from East and West Godavari spoke. Life of children affected by mines in other parts of the country is no different.

In most of the cases, no one asked the children why he quit the school or no officer from the Labour Department or the departments related to children's welfare notice the plight of the children. Veerraju said he would go to school on Tuesdays because it is a holiday for him at the quarry.

Dodging of laws

An activist of Help, an organisation from Vijayawada, Gode Prasad, revealed how the quarry owners dodge the laws. “At Kondapalli and near Rajahmundry the quarry owners engage labourers with their families, mostly from Orissa and keep them 20 km away from the quarry. Big stones are sent to the homes of labourers for breaking into small ones in which the children are also engaged. Working at home is not considered a hazardous occupation as per the law. It is also noticed that the children are enrolled in schools and they go to school only to have the mid-day meal served there. If the children are not able to go to school, the food is sent to their homes.”

Samata executive director detailed the study done on mining children in six States while its secretary G. Srinivas gave a power-point presentation on the findings. Sarpanch of Kannedhara village S. Mukhalingam released the Telugu translation of the report on mining effect on children. CACL State coordinator N.V.S. Rammohan, and others spoke.

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