Kids of burden

Published: Friday 31 March 1995

-- Parents in the Paonta valley villages (Himachal Pradesh), are loaded with worries about the ways of their children, as parents anywhere are wont to do. The kids have apparently become willing accomplices in the smuggling of khair wood from the region.

Groups of school children trudging with their satchels heavily loaded with pieces of khair has become a common sight in the area. The children receive between Rs 15-20 per kg of wood they bring from the felling points within the forest to the collection centres set up by the timber smugglers. In a day's work, the children manage to earn between Rs 50-60 per trip.

This form of transportation has come as a boon for the timber smugglers, because if they use other methods, like beasts of burden or trucks, they are liable to be searched at checkpoints of the forest department, which means spending huge sums for the "gratification" of petty officials.

The parents are disturbed because many of the children are using their snap incomes for drinking and gambling. The local forest officials, of course, deny that any such smuggling is taking place at all.

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