MYSURU: It was a scene of sharp irony. Labour department officials flagged off several vehicles to raise awareness on ‘World Day against Child Labour’ in Mysuru. Barely a few metres away, many children -- some as young as 9-10 years -- were selling masks and pens under the scorching sun. With the prevailing Covid-19 crisis, Mysuru is witnessing a spike in the number of children selling products on city streets.
A few families facing a financial crisis are forcing their children to join the workforce. Ten-year-old Sameer (name changed), who sells masks with his younger brother on Mysuru-Manadavadi Road, said, “I have been selling 80-100 masks daily for the past 10 days.
The price of the masks ranges between Rs 20 and Rs 50. I am doing this to support my family.” Asked whether he was unhappy that he is unable to stay home or play, his younger brother interrupted and said, “Yes, I don’t want to do this” while the elder one asked him to stay quiet. In another instance, 12-year-old Chandan (name changed) said, “A relative convinced my parents to let me join him in selling masks.
He pays me Rs 200-300 by the end of the day.” An activist said, “A few people exploit loopholes in the child labour laws which allow the employment of children if the work is part of a family business. Following the current crisis and parents losing jobs, people are turning towards their children as a means to earn some money.”