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The Hindu
The Hindu
Abdul Latheef Naha

Tribal children engaged in plantation labour

The exploitation of tribal children in farms and plantations near Nilambur continues unabated in spite of the efforts by the government to ensure that all tribal children reach schools. School dropouts are being reported in several tribal hamlets in and around Nilambur.

Tribal children aged between eight and 15 have been seen engaged in labour in areca nut and banana plantations near Kakkadampoyil. The children of tribal families are being used as cheap labour for clearing undergrowth in private plantations and fields on the hills of Kakkadampoyil.

The neighbourhoods of Kakkadampoyil in Chaliyar, Urangattiri, Koodarinji and Thiruvampadi panchayats bordering Malappuram and Kozhikode districts with a heavy presence of tribespeople are witnessing the exploitation of children.

“Of late there was an improvement in their wages. From ₹300 a day, their wages have improved to ₹400. But none here realises that this is exploitation of children,” said Ajmal K., who works among the tribespeople. Adolescents are paid up to ₹500 a day.

School dropouts

The stopping of alternative schools has helped sections of tribal children to move to residential campuses meant for them. However, some have cleverly evaded studying on a residential campus giving flimsy excuses. The demand for child labour in plantations around hamlets has led to school dropouts.

“Why should I go to school and waste time when I find a job near my house,” asked Suresh Babu when this reporter met him a few months ago. Like him, Mahesh too is engaged in various daily works. They are still below 15 years of age.

When some teachers sincerely go after the tribal children with the sole intention of educating them, many others bring the tribal children to their classes for their survival. Such teachers do not bother about the children once the headcounts are completed in their classes in the initial weeks of the academic year.

Tribal children engaged in labour are increasingly falling prey to country liquor supplied by some bootleggers. Their parents are not concerned either, as they too drink excessively.

Some children secretly work in resorts in and around Kakkadampoyil. They get liquor from the guests who arrive at the resorts. Interestingly, some of the tribal children showed no qualms in admitting that they would drink. Many of them start drinking from the age of six and become addicts well before 18 years of age.

When their parents are paid ₹700 to ₹800, the children get up to ₹500 for daily labour. Together they find happiness in their daily chores, but they are not aware of their future loss.

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