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Arboreal child labour in Guwahati!

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  20 Aug 2017 12:00 AM GMT

By our Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, Aug 19: ‘Work is worship’ should not have any takers among children if ‘work’ for them mean anything other than ‘reading’ and ‘playing’. A group of school dropouts is engaged in a daredevil profession. They know the pros and cons of the profession they are in. They, however, do risk their lives.

Rahul has locked his gaze at Rocky who is atop a coconut tree. He has his eyes set on the coconuts that Rocky has plucked and dropped. Rocky often loses his grip and meet with accidents.

Rahul, Rocky, Sourav, Hitesh, Kamal and Rishav of Beltola eke out their living by plucking coconuts and acacia nuts in the city. They help plucking these fruits from high-rising trees standing erect in 90 per cent of households in the city. They try to cover as many households as possible during the day to make their income looking hefty.

“My father is a daily wage earner. I would have been in 6th standard if had I continued my studies. I had to leave school due to fincial constraints. By plucking coconuts and acacia nuts we make money, and if I make a large amount I give it to my mother,” Rahul, who is of 11 years, said.

The six children divide themselves in three groups, two each in a group. They boast of climbing the tallest coconut trees located at Ganeshguri and Nursery.

“We like going to school and need pocket money as well. I tried my hand in repairing vehicles in garages. But such work has no fun. We’re now doing what we are good at. In the morning we gather at Beltola HS School playground and divide areas. We never trespass in each other’s areas,” Sourav said.

“We charge Rs. 100 per tree. It may come down to Rs. 50 after negotiation. We feel really bad when somebody offer us Rs. 20 or 30. If some people negotiate much, we do the work but don’t refuse to take some coconuts with us to adjust, and, of course, without their consent. This kind of work has risks involved. A lose grip can cost one one’s life. August and September is the peak time before the arrival of Puja ceremonies. Our aim is to pluck every coconut and acacia off the trees in the vicinity. There were also instances when I earned money up to Rs. 200, tea and scks without climbing. People gave away money out of pity saying they could not risk our life by putting us to climb the trees,” Rocky grinned. He has just made Rs. 250 out of three trees as he was sitting under an acacia shade.

“We’re sometimes scared of Rocky’s daring abilities. He is never afraid of climbing any high rises. He can creep through branches and jump off from one tree to another. We make sure every time that the knot of the rope is tight at our feet to maintain a firm grip on the trees,” Rishav said.

Locals of Beltola, Khapara, Basistha, Hatigaon know these children because of their skills to climb trees. They are also aware of the children’s honesty.

“Every year in August two of them come to my place to help pluck coconuts and acacia. I have six coconut trees and seven acacia nut trees. I give a few rupees more than they ask for. They are just kids,” Jogesh Kalita, a resident of Beltola Tiniali, said.

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