India : children on sale

Mother and son. They belong to the Gadaba tribe. Orissa, India.

Ten year-old Manu hails from a Santhal tribal village in the indian state of Jharkhand ( Santhal are one of the main tribe in India). He has been sold to an affluent man from another village for Rs 750 ( 11 €, US$ 14,50). It’s because Manu’s father was seriously ill  and his grandmother needed money for treatment. Budhinath, 10, was sold Rs 600 ( 9 €, US$ 11) to a teacher because his family was on the verge of starvation. Gopal, 10, was sold for Rs 1200 ( 18 €, US$ 22) to a moneylender. Palu, 11, was sold to his uncle for Rs 750 ( 11 €, US$ 14,50) because his father needed money for his treatment.

Manu, Budhinath, Gopal and Palu were lucky because they were rescued by social workers. But many others are not so fortunate : they are now bonded child labourers. 

In the tribal villages of Jharkhand, life is hard. The hilly terrains leave little scope for cultivation. Whatever cultivation villagers used to do earlier has now almost stopped due to the wild elephants menace. And hunger has become a routine. “We stopped cultivation and the government did nothing for our welfare. In such adverse circumstances, villagers either sell or mortgage their children. It is better because both the parents and the child manage to survive.”

Moreover, the villagers are facing the attack of malaria, jaundice and kala-azar. “Before I could fully recover from malaria, I became a jaundice patient. But the earlier kala-azar attack had already weakened me. And all my savings have been spent on medical treatment” says Bishnu, a villager, who is too weak to work. So people like him have no option but selling or mortgaging their children.

According to the Santhal tradition, women who plough their field are looked down. So, a widow finds it difficult to earn a living despite having farmland. She has to hire some male to plough the field. Besides, she needs oxen. In such circumstances, she mortgages or sells her child for an ox or some money.

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My blog is all about travelling and photography
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