Siliguri, Mar. 5 (ANI): Poverty-stricken children, below the permissible employment age of 14, are being made to work in the tea gardens of Siliguri.
At present there are 300 tea plantations in the Terai Doars region of northern Bengal, and the people of the tribal community called Madeshis are employed as workers in these gardens.
Workers are paid just 60 rupees per day, which makes it difficult for them to support their families. Such a situation forces children to work in tea gardens as well.
"Our parents can't teach us and send us to school because they are paid very less here, in the tea gardens. That is why they send us to work here," said Preeti Oraon, a ten-year-old girl working in Sukna Tea Estate.
Employing child workers proves beneficial for the owners as they are made to work nearly as much as an adult, but for a much smaller wage.
"Small children have left their school and are now working here in the tea gardens. The manager of the estate is getting his work done by these kids because of which they will never be able to study. The child labourers work at daily wages of 28 rupees and the money tempts these children to continue working at the tea estate. We are protesting against this," said Sambhu Toppo, leader of the Tea Gardens Trade Union in the region.
Toppo said that more than 100 to 150 underage children work with their parents in the Sukna Tea Estate alone. This trend is becoming quite visible in numerous tea estates of the region.
Sukna Tea Estate's manager O P Mishra admitted employing child workers, but said that they were forced into labour by their parents.
"Workers in the tea estate are very poor. We stop the underage children from working here and only allow kids above the age of 14 to work, and that too sometimes. But these children do not listen to us. Their parents come and threaten us and forcibly make them work here. They say that unless the children also work they will not be able to survive and earn a decent living," said Mishra.
Officially, India has 12.6 million child workers, the world's highest number, but activists suggest the figure is at least five times more. (ANI)