Child rights

One of every ten workers in Raichur’s granite mines is a child

In this region of Karnataka, children break and crush the stones with hammers and nails, sitting barefoot.

Even as the Cabinet approves stricter penalties for child labor violations, granite mines in Karnataka still employ a large number of children, many under the age of 14, to complete stone processing. A report titled Rock Bottom by the Netherlands-based non-government organisations India Committee of the Netherlands and Stop Child Labour, found that minors accounted for almost 10% of the total workforce in six quarries in state’s Raichur district.

While the heavy lifting of stone cutting and machine operation are left to the men, the industry employs women and children to process waste stones. This involves crushing chunks of granite that aren’t suitable to be processed into construction slabs into grit and gravel. Children break and crush the stones with hammers and nails, sitting barefoot, with no protection against silica dust and other hazards from the mines.

The children received lower wages than the women, who themselves were not paid according to the state’s minimum wage requirements, the report said. While most workers had no written contracts, the children were even less likely to be able to claim

Child labor in Raichur’s mines has declined after the clampdown on illegal mining in the state in 2005. At that time, an Indian fact-finding team visited iron ore and granite mines in Hospet and Bellary and concluded in its report, titled Our Mining Children, that a few lakh children had been forced into illegal mining activities.

The fact-finding team found how children were paid according to how many puttus, or iron baskets, of stone they filled in a day. One puttu of about 10 kgs-15 kgs fetched Rs 5. A child could fill between six and ten in a day, depending on his energy that day.

Karnataka’s neighbour Tamil Nadu seems to have had more success in preventing children from working in its granite mines. The Rock Bottom survey found only one child below the age of 14 among the 12 quarries they visited in Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri. The under-18 workforce in Tamil Nadu’s mines was little more than 1%.


Like in Karnataka, illegal mining became a huge political issue in 2012 leading to strict monitoring of mines over the last two years. In order to avoid being hauled up for child labour violations, mine owners who employ migrant labour have asked employees not to bring their families to the mining sites.

Child labour continues not just in the mines of south India but across the country. In Rajasthan, women, children and the elderly support the efforts of the young, male breadwinner who works as a stone cutter in a mine. The rat-hole coal mines of Meghalaya which are vertical shafts, which then branch sideways, are no deeper than five feet. This means that mine owners often send in small and agile children at great risk to their life and limb.

The new amendment to the Child Labour (Protection and Regulation) Act makes child labour violations a cognisable offence. The amendment has also increases penalties with the maximum fine being raised from Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000 and imprisonment going up to two years instead of one year. However, the amendment also allows children under 14 to be employed in family-run business and in the entertainment sector. This dilution in the original act, activists say, will promote child labour.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Following a mountaineer as he reaches the summit of Mount Everest

Accounts from Vikas Dimri’s second attempt reveal the immense fortitude and strength needed to summit the Everest.

Vikas Dimri made a huge attempt last year to climb the Mount Everest. Fate had other plans. Thwarted by unfavourable weather at the last minute, he came so close and yet not close enough to say he was at the top. But that did not deter him. Vikas is back on the Everest trail now, and this time he’s sharing his experiences at every leg of the journey.

The Everest journey began from the Lukla airport, known for its dicey landing conditions. It reminded him of the failed expedition, but he still moved on to Namche Bazaar - the staging point for Everest expeditions - with a positive mind. Vikas let the wisdom of the mountains guide him as he battled doubt and memories of the previous expedition. In his words, the Everest taught him that, “To conquer our personal Everest, we need to drop all our unnecessary baggage, be it physical or mental or even emotional”.

Vikas used a ‘descent for ascent’ approach to acclimatise. In this approach, mountaineers gain altitude during the day, but descend to catch some sleep. Acclimatising to such high altitudes is crucial as the lack of adequate oxygen can cause dizziness, nausea, headache and even muscle death. As Vikas prepared to scale the riskiest part of the climb - the unstable and continuously melting Khumbhu ice fall - he pondered over his journey so far.

His brother’s diagnosis of a heart condition in his youth was a wakeup call for the rather sedentary Vikas, and that is when he started focusing on his health more. For the first time in his life, he began to appreciate the power of nutrition and experimented with different diets and supplements for their health benefits. His quest for better health also motivated him to take up hiking, marathon running, squash and, eventually, a summit of the Everest.

Back in the Himalayas, after a string of sleepless nights, Vikas and his team ascended to Camp 2 (6,500m) as planned, and then descended to Base Camp for the basic luxuries - hot shower, hot lunch and essential supplements. Back up at Camp 2, the weather played spoiler again as a jet stream - a fast-flowing, narrow air current - moved right over the mountain. Wisdom from the mountains helped Vikas maintain perspective as they were required to descend 15km to Pheriche Valley. He accepted that “strength lies not merely in chasing the big dream, but also in...accepting that things could go wrong.”

At Camp 4 (8,000m), famously known as the death zone, Vikas caught a clear glimpse of the summit – his dream standing rather tall in front of him.

It was the 18th of May 2018 and Vikas finally reached the top. The top of his Everest…the top of Mount Everest!

Watch the video below to see actual moments from Vikas’ climb.

Play

Vikas credits his strength to dedication, exercise and a healthy diet. He credits dietary supplements for helping him sustain himself in the inhuman conditions on Mount Everest. On heights like these where the oxygen supply drops to 1/3rd the levels on the ground, the body requires 3 times the regular blood volume to pump the requisite amount of oxygen. He, thus, doesn’t embark on an expedition without double checking his supplements and uses Livogen as an aid to maintain adequate amounts of iron in his blood.

Livogen is proud to have supported Vikas Dimri on his ambitious quest and salutes his spirit. To read more about the benefits of iron, see here. To read Vikas Dimri’s account of his expedition, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Livogen and not by the Scroll editorial team.