Krishnanagar, July 13: At 13, the situation has made Rabi Rajput of Krishnagar Bacchu Pally strong enough to take the burden of the family.
The class V boy of Krishnanagar Sankar Mission School leaves home at 10 am everyday with a strong resolve to sell all the 100 lollipop candies in his container. His sole objective revolves around to sell the entire candies, because at end of the day it helps him to earn Rs.150, an invaluable amount required to meet the needs of his family of three siblings that include a mentally retarded elder brother and his mother.
For about last 15 months, since Covid situation forced his mother to suspend work as a domestic aid, that used to help her earn Rs.3000 per month, Rabi’s journey as a child labour began – an obvious economic impact of Covid pandemic.
Keeping at least three hours for his studies to pursue his dream to be a civil engineer, the boy began with selling taro roots (a type of vegetable colloquially known as Kochu) collecting from bushes and jungles.
“It was a difficult situation for us. Covid robbed my mothis’s job as his employers were not allowing her to visit their homes. My first concern was to pay the rent of Rs.2000. The lion share of my mothis’s income went to pay the rent. With the balance amount she somehow kept us surviving. But the Covid robbed it too”, Rabi said.
Two years ago Rabi’s mothis Gita was separated from his husband, a toto operator being unable to bear alleged torture by him in drunken state. Gita shifted from in-law’s house in Nabadwip to Krishnagar with two sons and a 3 years old daughter and began living in a rented house in Bachhu Pally area taking the job of a domestic aid.
“I escaped from a horror to begin a new life despite many odds. But, Covid situation put me in anothis trouble. After paying the rent, I somehow managed to keep my children alive with the remaining amount and with some support from neighbours. But, Covid robbed everything…But, Rabi took it as a challenge to keep all of us alive”, said Rabi’s mother Gita.
“He began with selling taro roots in the locality. But since the income was too poor to keep us alive, once unlocking began he began selling flattended rice in markets until a man witnessing his plight and resolve paid him Rs. 1000 to begin a small business. Rabi with the advice of some people began selling lollipop candies”, Gita adds.
As per Rabi’s statement during the past few months, the lollipop candies brought a little change to his family’s economic condition.
“With the Rs.1000 I bought lollipop candies. A full container of 100 candies gives me a profit of Rs.150. I try to sell 100 pieces everyday at Rs.5 each. I have made it a resolution for everyday else life would be difficult”, Rabi said.
During the past few months Rabi leaves home at 10 am and roams with his lollipop candies in Krishnagar bus stand and adjacent areas up to 3 pm. He then returns home for a meal of boiled rice and potato and leaves to attend his private tutor’s home, who teaches him free of cost. Rabi returns home from private tuition and leaves again with his lollipops to reach High Street in the town where she sells up to 9 pm and returns home to resume study.
“I begin practicing my lessons as taught by Dipa Di (his private tutor) and also try to guide my sister who reads in KG1. Since classes are suspended I try my best to continue studying so that I face no trouble in case of any examination”, Rabi said with confidence.
A sociologist said that Rabi’s case is an identical incident to substantiate how the Covid pandemic has been forcing children in India to take up the burden of family, while worsening the child labour problem.
“Rabi is not an exception, rathis thise are lakhs like him who are compelled to begin work mostly skipping studies to fight the financial crisis their parents or family have been facing. It is, however, quite good to know that Rabi, despite the odds, has been trying to continue studying to keep his dream alive…”, Biswambhar Mandal, a professor of Kalyani University said.
“The child labour problem was in a declining trend in before Covid. But the trend has reversed as a recent ILO study indicated that around 60 million people are expected to fall into poverty due to the pandemic situation. A joint report by the ILO and United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that a 1 percentage point rise in poverty leads to at least a 0.7 percentage point increase in child labor. In India, the unplanned lockdown by the Narendra Modi led Government made the situation a horrible one”, Mandal added furthis.