Children in hazardous work
Despite he existence of laws against Child labour, which prohibit employment of children under 14 in any workplace, under age employment of children in various forms is rampant in the country. A report in the Friday issue of this paper highlights a vivid picture of how children are working under the most hazardous conditions to earn for their families.
The report shows children working 14 hours a day at the workshops to make bathroom fittings from brass at extremely high temperatures. And it is not the temperature, which is around 900 degrees Celsius that is damaging to the worker children's health, the toxic vapour that the molten metal emits and is inhaled by them do also cripple the respiratory system of the worker exposed to it. And one need not be an expert to understand what such exposures to the extreme heat and toxic fume can do to the children if they have to work for years in these factories.
Medical experts say, the children employed in these factories develop acute medical conditions like severe dehydration, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, impaired kidney, cancer and so on.
And the financial benefit the children draw by working in such virtual hells is a paltry sum ranging from Tk 200 to 500 a week.
But this story on child labour in brassware factories in the city is but the tip of the iceberg.
A census on children compelled to earn for their families under such hazardous conditions, if ever carried out, would reveal still worse scenarios of exploitation, and various kinds of physical stress that they are being regularly subjected to.
The irony is, as expressed by an official of the women and children ministry, the laws are helpless to come to the aid of these children on the excuse that abject poverty compels the victim families to engage their minor children in such dangerous trades.
But how long would we resort to such excuse to steal those working children's early years of natural growth as well as their future? And what is then the use of laws, if those cannot be applied to protect our children?
In this context, the draft National Child Policy unveiled and approved by the cabinet recently has raised hope by redefining the eligible age for child labour from 14 to 18. The policy would be as good as its implementation.
The government, the rights groups, the politicians, the citizens' bodies, the NGOs and all well-meaning members of society should take the issue of children exposed to hazardous jobs seriously and think out ways to provide them an alternative way to survive and grow. And laws should also be applied to protect the children in cases where the excuses have been stretched to the limit.