As you know, the interior work for our Ayurvedic restaurant is going on and we are using bamboo for a big part of the walls, ceiling and more. It should look natural and also be using natural material. And of course we also stick to our moral standards when the work situation is concerned!
Day before yesterday, the contractor who brings the labourers, brought a new team of workers. Among these men was a very young boy. When I saw him, I first thought he would be the son or relative of one of the adults around him. As these labourers sometimes bring their small children along to the site, I thought he would just give someone company.
At a visit of the site, I asked the boy for his name. His name was Sonu. I further asked him which class he was studying in but got a reply: ‘No, I don’t go to school, I work.’ I was surprised and asked him ‘Oh, what do you work?’
In response, he looked at me in disbelief. He was confused at my question and replied: ‘I do bamboo work! I came here to work!’ Now it was my turn to be confused and thoroughly so! ‘For how long have you been working?’ I asked.
When I got to know that he had already been earning money for two complete years, I was dumbfounded! He looked like he was barely 12 years old! He further told that he was originally from the other side of Delhi, about 80 kilometres from the capital, and lived in Delhi with his parents now when he was not out, working for 300 Rupees a day.
After our conversation, I called the contractor and told him as well as the other labourers very clearly that this boy would not work on our site. We don’t allow child labour here. He should be going to school, not to work.
Sonu has never been to school. His parents are labourers themselves and they sent him to work so that he could contribute to the family income. For them, this little money is more valuable than education. It is the typical situation that we have seen with many of our school’s children as well.
I made an offer: I wouldn’t let this boy work at our site but if he liked, he could stay and go to school here. The head of the labourers told me however that he knew the parents very well and they would not allow this. They would like him to earn – or be with them to look for another possibility. He talked on phone nevertheless but they answered exactly what he had predicted: if he couldn’t work, he should come home.
That’s how this boy spent one day here, slept one night and then went back yesterday with 300 INR in his pocket which I had given him. I had made him promise one thing however: to stop eating tobacco, something which a lot of people do here. His teeth were yellow of the mixture he was eating. I told him of the harms and dangers of getting cancer. Whatever he had in his hand when we talked, he threw away. Whatever he will do after that, whether he will keep his promise or not, you cannot know.
In the same way I told him he should go to school and if he ever needed help, he could contact us. Most probably he will just keep on working as before – but not at our site!