CHILDHOOD’S BLOOD ON MATCHSTICKS – A CASE STUDY OF VIRUDHUNAGAR DISTRICT, TAMIL NADU Dr.M.

Muthuraj* I Introduction Among all the aspects a nation has the most is the quality of its human resource. The quality of human resource is reflected and determined by the health status of children and their care. The child workers of match industries are integral part of the fast growing resource. These child workers are not particularly healthy lot. Overwork and low calorie intake make them prone to disease deceasing their efficiency (now and for the future) and life expectancy. Illness related with inadequate nutrition and occupation undermines their health affecting the quality of the labour force. Their condition is further worsened due to their lack of awareness and receptiveness of welfare measures initiated by the Government for their benefit. In view of the above, this paper makes an attempt to discuss the implication of child abuse on the physical development and health of the working children, the availability of social infrastructures and their utilization to benefit them at match industries in Virudhunagar District. Sivakasi block which is a main center of the match industry in Virudhunagar district of Tamil Nadu where the bulk of the population seems dependent on the Lecturer, Great Lakes Institute of Management, Manamai Village, Kancheepuram District, Tamil Nadu, India, 603 102.
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industry and in almost every home can be seen men, women and children engaged on some process of match manufacture such as box making, box-labeling, etc. It was impossible to make an intensive survey into the working conditions in all these factories but a good few at Sivakasi were personally inspected. In these factories were found working many children who were obviously under 12 years of age although they seemed to be in the possession of badges showing that they were certified. They are complaints that many of the workers in these factories are made to work for about ten hours a day without being paid any overtime allowance. The unskilled labour in these factories consists mostly of women and children. They are usually engaged in frame – filling, box making, box filling and labeling. II Methodology Study Area Villages in Sivakasi block of Virudhunagar district were selected for the household survey. As this is proposed as a study to understand the fallout of legislation, the sampling of villages was purposive. Match industry is spread in almost all villages of Sivakasi block. Villages in this block are selected on the basis of an earlier Census Survey conducted in the entire blocks of child labour during 2001. Sample Design In order to examine the above objectives of the study, 300 households that supply child labour were selected on a random basis. In fact, 300 working children 2

belong to these households. These children were selected because of two reasons. Firstly, they work in different match factories and at the household and secondly, it was difficult to conduct survey of the working children in different factories because of the refusal and non-cooperation of the factory owners for us to do so. All these households are working children were surveyed on the basis of Structural questionnaire schedules. Moreover, 20 match factories were selected on the basis of stratified proportionate random sampling and structured questionnaire schedules were canvassed to collect desired and relevant information from them. Some relevant data from the secondary (published and unpublished) sources were also collected for the study purpose. III Results and Discussion 3.1 Physical Development Weight and Height are taken to be good enough to measure the physical development of the working children. The age-wise medically prescribed standard norms of weight and height were taken from Davidson’s Principles and Practice of Medicine, edited by John Macleod, 1975 were taken for presenting the children with or below standard weight and height having their actual weights and heights through the field surveys. In Table 1 the classification of working children according to weight is presented. TABLE 1

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CLASSIFICATION OF WORKING CHILDREN ACCORDING TO WEIGHT Age (Years 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 M F M F M F M F M F M F M F M F M F Sex Standard Weight (kgs) 22 21 25 25 26 26 30 27 32 33 35 37 39 43 42 49 45 54 No. of working children With Std weight 1 1 1 2 3 1 9 Less than Std weight 7 2 5 2 9 10 16 9 18 12 22 10 59 9 72 6 10 278 More than Std weight 3 1 1 1 1 1 3 2 13 Total 10 3 7 3 10 11 16 10 19 12 24 10 62 9 77 6 11 300

Total Source: Survey data Note: M – Male F – Female

It could be observed from Table 1 that only nine children in the sample have the standard weight prescribed medically for various ages out of which 7 are males. Of the 13 children there are 10 male children above standard weight showing again the indifference of the society towards the health of the working female child as 93

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per cent of the society children in the sample have less than the prescribed standard weight. This shows a some what negative correlation between the work of the child and his / her physical development in terms of weight. The analysis of data related to weight of the working children reveals that a majority of them are underweight which highlights the physical condition of the children engaged in hazards industry. Perhaps the health of the working children is deteriorated by working in the match industry and the poor food lacking adequate nutrition given by their parents due to poverty. In Table 2 the classification of working children according to height is presented.

TABLE 2 CLASSIFICATION OF WORKING CHILDREN ACCORDING TO HEIGHT Age (Years Sex Standard Height (Inches) No. of working children With Std Less than More than Total

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6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

M F M F M F M F M F M F M F M F M F

46.85 48.43 48.43 50.39 50.00 52.76 51.97 54.33 54.72 56.30 56.69 58.66 59.06 60.63 61.02 62.99 62.99

Height -

Total Source: Survey data

Std Height 9 7 2 11 9 16 12 19 10 14 11 36 9 110 8 11 286

Std Height 1 13 14

10 2 8 3 9 8 14 10 21 16 19 8 49 12 93 7 11 300

Note: M – Male F – Female Table 2 explains the classification of working children according to height. In Sivakasi block no working child in the sample has the standard height as medically prescribed for various ages. 95.33 per cent of the children are below standard height while only 14 male children in the sample are above the prescribed standard height for their ages. This is indicative of the fact that among the working children below the age of 14 years retard physical development in terms of height. 3.2 Health Hazards

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Data pertaining to immunization of children below six years in the sample households is given in Table 3. TABLE 3 CHILDREN BELOW SIX YEARS OF AGE AND THEIR IMMUNIZATION STATUS IN THE SAMPLE HOUSEHOLDS Level of Name of item Immunization DPT Polio BCG Measles Total Number of Children below 6 years Male 129 Female 101 Total 230 Children Immunizes Male 32 29 30 34 Female 22 18 19 16 Total 54 47 49 50 Percentage of Children Immunized Male 24.81 22.48 23.26 26.36 Female 21.78 17.82 18.81 15.84 Total 23.48 20.43 21.30 21.74 Source: Survey data Total 125 75 200 96.90 74.26 86.96

Table 3 reveals that out of the 230 children below six years of age 86.96 per cent have been immunized. This shows the growing awareness of parents regarding immunization of their children against various diseases. Sex-wise figure shows that about 97 per cent of the total male children have been immunized while 74 per cent of the total females have been immunized. Parents are more concerned about their male offsprings and their health while females are forced to take the back seat in such matters. Polio drops are given to 20.43 per cent of the children below six years while 23.48 per cent children have been immunized from DPT.

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Data pertaining to illness and centre of treatment in the sample households is given in Table 4. TABLE 4
ILLNESS AND CENTRE OF TREATMENT

Sl. No 1 2

Description Number Sample Households 300 Households reporting illness for 282 last six months 3 Centre or place of treatment i) PHC 3 ii) Dispensaries 3 iii) Pvt. Practitioners 189 iv) ESI dispensary 2 v) District Hospital 31 vi) Not taken treatment in these 54 places vii) Others Source: Survey data

Percentage 100.00 94.00 1.06 1.06 67.02 0.71 10.99 19.15 -

It is observed from Table 4 that the usual practice of people regarding the treatment when they fell ill. Out of selected sample in the study area, 67 per cent have gone to private practitioners for treatment. Few people go to dispensaries or district hospitals for treatment. The reason for the massive popularity of private practitioners could be the effective treatment and attention that the people in the sample receive here. The hospitals responded that the district hospitals neither give due attention to patients or supply medicines. Illness and method of treatment in the selected household is presented in Table 5.

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TABLE 5
ILLNESS AND METHOD OF TREATMENT IN THE HOUSEHOLD

Sl. No 1 2

Description Sample Households Households reporting sickness for last six months 3 System of medicine availed i) Allopathic ii) Ayurvedic iii) Homeopathic iv) Unani v) Native vi) Home Remedies Source: Survey data

Number 300 282 236 236 30 16 -

Percentage 100.00 94.00 83.69 83.69 10.64 5.67 -

Table 5 examines the analysis of data regarding the method of treatment in the sample household. It reveals that the treatment is done through allopathic system of medicine. Out of selected respondents 94 per cent of the sample households reporting illness for the last three months, 84 per cent have used the allopathic medicine. Ayuervedic medicines are next in order of popularity while some people also used the homoeopathic medicine. The reason for the enormous popularity of allopathic medicines could be the easy availability and quick relief that they give. In Table 6 the health status of the working children is shown. TABLE 6
HEALTH STATUS OF THE WORKING CHILDREN

Sl. No

Problems related to Health

Working children having problems Number Percentage

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Dispigmented hair Bleeding gums Dental caries Crack in lip / Soared mouth Ulcer on skin / scabies Total Source: Survey data

1 2 3 4 5

3 5 22 4 31

1.00 1.67 7.33 1.33 10.33

Table 6 highlights that out of selected sample, 10.33 per cent of the working children having problems related to health. Of them 7.33 per cent are inflicted with cracked / sore mount, 1.33 per cent of the children are inflicted with ulcers or scabies while some children have bleeding gums and dental caries also. On the whole, few children in the sample have health problems related to external diseases. But our informal interviews with some medical practitioners indicated that most of the working children suffer from back pain, eye sight problems, and inherent tendency for T.B, if they continue to work for five years or more without a break. The morbidity among working children during past six months is presented in Table 7. TABLE 7
MORBIDITY AMONG WORKING CHILDREN DURING PAST SIX MONTHS

Sl. No 1 2 3

Frequency of sickness Fallen sick often (more than 5 times) Fallen sick occasionally (less than 5 times) Number of fallen sick 10

Working children Number Percentage 23 7.67 86 191 28.67 63.66

Total Source: Survey data

300

100.00

It is inferred from Table 7 that out of selected sample, 109 working children (36.34 per cent) reported sickness during the past six months from the time of the survey. Among those sick, the percentage of working children who fell sick frequently was recorded higher. This high rate of morbidity can be attributed to low calorie diet leading to malnutrition coupled with hard labour. The two together reduce body resistance making the child susceptible to frequent illness. However, 63.66 per cent of the working children never fell sick for the last six months. The information related to type of morbidity among working children is given Table 8. TABLE 8
TYPE OF MORBIDITY AMONG WORKING CHILDREN DURING PAST SIX MONTHS

Sl. No 1 2

Type of Sickness

Working children Number Percentage 150 36 3 2 1 20 4 79.37 19.05 1.59 1.06 0.53 10.58 2.12 -

Fever Diseases related with the stomach (pain, cholera, etc) 3 Skin diseases 4 Jaundice 5 Small pox 6 Cold and cough (Asthma) 7 Polio 8 TB Source: Survey data

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It is observed form Table 8 that morbidity attacks children in many forms. Most (79.37 per cent) of the 150 children are prone to frequent bouts of fever. Lack of sense of hygiene and clean drinking water makes 19.05 per cent children susceptible to stomach-ache, cholera, etc. and 1.06 per cent to jaundice. Working in close proximity to furnaces, which emit harmful gases and smoke leads to other ailments as colds, cough asthma (10.58 per cent) and skin diseases (1.59 per cent). Exposure to high temperatures and poisonous gas weaken the child’s delicate body balance thereby making him an easy prey of all kinds of illness. During survey of the child workers engaged in match manufacturing process, it is found that not only the child workers fall ill due to poor quality of their food intake and unhygienic conditions around them but they become sick due to working in the industry and the nature of work. The sickness related to their industry is a common phenomenon among the working children. 3.3 Social infrastructure and awareness The level of infrastructure related to health, education and welfare measures and their utilization are the basic factors responsible for the development of children in an area. According to the information collected from the working children regarding the above-mentioned facilities in their areas, it was found that health, education and welfare facilities are available near their homes. But the level of utilization by the working children is extremely low.

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The level of infrastructure related to health, education and welfare measures and their utilization are given in Table 9.
TABLE 9 TYPE OF MORBIDITY AMONG WORKING CHILDREN DURING PAST TWELVE MONTHS Sl. No 1 2 3 4 5 6 Description Educational facilities provided i) Near Home ii) Near Factory Child workers use the educational facilities Health facilities provided i) Near home ii) Near factory Child workers use the health facilities Welfare facilities provided i) Near home ii) Near factory Child workers use the welfare facilities No. of child working giving positive answer 190 72 112 19 15 10 4 Percentage of child working giving positive answer 63.33 24.00 37.33 6.33 5.00 3.33 1.33

Source: Survey data According to Table 9, 63.33 per cent of working children reported that near their homes, the educational institutions are located but only 24 per cent use them. However, the educational facilities are not provided near the factory. Health facilities near to their homes are available in the case of 37.33 per cent of the working children and about 6 per cent of them reported availability of such facilities near their factories. Due to one reason or the other only 5 per cent of the working children make use of the health facilities. Welfare facilities for the development of children are rarely provided in the areas where the survey was conducted. Hardly 3.33 per cent of the working children reported about the welfare facilities near their homes.

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Reason for the not using the educational, health and welfare facilities are given in Table 10.
TABLE 10
REASONS FOR NOT USING THE EDUCATIONAL, HEALTH AND WELFARE FACILITIES

Sl. No 1 2 3

Reasons for not using facilities

Medicine does not give relief Medicine not available Due to poverty, work becomes essential, no time to study 4 Parents ill / dead 5 No child welfare programme 6 Nobody cares in government hospitals 7 Not interested in studying 8 Presents compel to do work 9 Schools are far from home 10 Hospitals are too far Source: Survey data From Table 10 it is observed that a majority

Working children Number Percentage 40 13.33 121 40.33 146 48.67 9 7 12 30 26 20 3.00 2.33 4.00 10.00 8.67 6.67

of the child workers are not

using the educational, health and welfare facilities that exist near their homes. The working children for not using these facilities have given various reasons. As far as medical and health facilities are concerned, 25 per cent of the working children reported that medicine is not made available to them in the hospitals and dispensaries. It was also felt 3.33 per cent of the working children that medicines provided by hospitals do not give relief and are not effective. Due to poverty and illness of their parents, about 49 per cent of the working children could not avail of the educational facilities because of them work becomes essential to earn money for their livelihood.

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The awareness of rehabilitation centres is presented in Table 11. TABLE 11 AWARENESS OF REHABILITATION CENTRES Number of Child workers 300 Source: Survey data Awareness of Rehabilitation Centres Aware Not aware 90 210 Percentage of child workers who are aware 30.00

Information collected from the working children about the types of facilities provided in the rehabilitation centres indicated that 30 per cent of the children in the sample are aware about the health, medial and educational facilities being provided by the centres. This kind of information is clearly known form the Table 11. The type of facilities in the rehabilitation centres reported by child workers is reported in Table 12. TABLE 12
TYPE OF FACILITIES IN THE REHABILITATION CENTRES REPORTED BY CHILD WORKERS
Sl. No Type of Facilities No. of child workers Reporting facilities Percentage of child workers Reporting Facilities

1 2 3 4 5

Health and Medical Facilities Education and School Shelter and Home Food and Nutrition Entertainment and recreation Source: Survey data

90 90 30 90 90

30.00 30.00 10.00 30 30

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In Table 12 the facilities of entertainment and recreation provided by the rehabilitation centres as reported by 30 per cent children. The information about the provision of food and shelter in these rehabilitation centres was known to 7 per cent of the working children. Only 90 working children (30 per cent) were aware of the rehabilitation centres at Sivakasi block. Of the 90 children who were aware of the facilities provided by the rehabilitation centres, very few (only 7.78 per cent) of the children availed them. Among the working children who aware about the rehabilitation centres and the facilities provided by them about 92.22 per cent of the working children were not using the facilities. It is inferred from Table 13.

TABLE 13
UTILIZATION FACILITIES PROVIDED BY REHABILITATION CENTRES

Sl. No 1 2 3

Description

Facilities are being used Facilities are not being used Facilities were used but dropped Total Number of Award Source: Survey data

Working children Number Percentage 7 7.78 83 92.22 90 100.00

Out of the 90 child workers in the sample who were aware of the facilities provided by the rehabilitation centres 83 were not using them. The reasons for not using the facilities provided by rehabilitation centres are presented in Table 14.

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TABLE 14
REASONS FOR NOT USING FACILITIES PROVIDED BY REHABILITATION CENTRES

Sl. No 1 2

Description

Not Interested Due to poverty it is necessary to earn money 3 Recently come to know about 10 11.90 center 4 Tried but could not get 18 21.43 admission 5 Those centres are recently 18 21.43 opened 6 Parents do not allow and compel 3 3.57 to do work 7 Centres are located at 2 2.38 considerable distance TOTAL 84 93.33 Source: Survey data It is inferred from Table 14 that due to poverty, 33.33 per cent of them could not utilize the facilities, as they could not get time. Some of the working children tried to get admission in the centres but they were not admitted as reported by 21.43 per cent of the working children admitting awareness. Moreover, a similar proportion of the working children out that these centres were opened recently and they have not yet decided to join. Similarly, 11.90 per cent of the non-users reported that they received knowledge about the centres recently. The awareness of Labour Laws among the selected households is presented in Table 15. TABLE 15
REASONS FOR NOT USING FACILITIES PROVIDED BY

Working children Number Percentage 5 5.95 28 33.33

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REHABILITATION CENTRES

Sl. No 1 2 3 4 5 6

Legislation

Minimum Wages Accident Compensation ESI Provident Fund Child Labour Others Source: Survey data

No. of households who are aware 75 71 83 76 77 1

No. of households who are unaware 255 229 217 224 223 299

Percentage of Aware Unaware 25.00 23.60 27.60 25.40 25.60 0.40 75.00 76.40 72.40 74.60 74.40 99.60

It is inferred from Table 15 that the success of any Law or Act depends on the awareness about it to a great extent. The level of awareness determines implementation of Law or Act. Awareness of labour laws is not widespread among sample households. Of those aware maximum know about ESI. Other Laws ranked according to awareness were Child Labour Act (26.50 per cent aware), Provident Fund (25.40 per cent aware), Minimum Wages Act (25.00 per cent), and Accident Compensation Act (23.60 per cent aware). Ignorance among the majority paves the way for exploitation of the labour force. Moreover the concerned Government officials do not motivate the child workers in this regard. This apathetic concern is also one of the reasons for the lack of awareness among the children about all this. In Table 16, the awareness and benefits of Governmental Programmes is given. TABLE 16

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AWARENESS AND BENEFITS OF GOVERNMENTAL PROGRAMMES

Sl. No

Governmental Programmes 1 IRDP 2 TRYSEM 3 JRY 4 ICDS 5 Adult Education 6 Others Source: Survey data

Aware Number Percentage 91 30.20 10 3.40 53 17.60 74 24.80 53 17.60 3 1.00

Unaware Number Percentage 46 15.23 78 26.13 73 24.19 61 20.45 -

Table 16 reveals that the Government has proved successfully in spreading awareness regarding its programmes in general. The Integrated Rural Development Programme is known to 30.20 per cent of the sample households. But only 15.23 per cent (91) of the households being aware of it derived benefits from the programme. Just about a quarter (24.80 per cent) of the households know about ICDS. Of these, only 20.19 per cent availed the benefits of the scheme. 3.40 per cent and 17.60 per cent of the households knew TRYSEM and adult education programmes respectively. But none of them availed benefits of TRYSEM whereas only 20.45 per cent attended the adult education courses. IV Concluding Remarks The first effect that follows from the abuse of child labour in the match industry is the retarded physical development of the working children. The weight and height of most of the children were below the medically prescribed standard norms. This reflects their poor health and physical fitness.

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About 86.96 per cent of the working children were found to have been immunized but 94 per cent of the sample households were reported to have suffered from illness during the previous six months. A majority of the sick households consulted private practitioners for treatment and they preferred the allopathic system to the Ayurvedic or Homoeopathic or Unani or other indigenous system. As many as 109 working children reported to have fallen sick during the last six months. Among those sick, the proportion of working children who fell sick frequently was quite high. This high rate of morbidity may be attributed to hard work of long duration but with low calorie intake value leading to malnutrition. The working children do not use educational and health facilities, whatsoever are available in their vicinity. There is a complex of reasons expressed by them. Among them notably are their poverty and non-availability of medicines. There are certain centres to rehabilitate the working children and to discourage them from working as child labour. But only 30 per cent of the working children were aware of the existence of such centres. However, of 90 children admitting awareness of these centres and facilities available there, only 10 child workers used the facilities available at the centres. Those who could not use the facilities put forward a number of reasons for it. Among the reasons expressed by them were notably their poverty and their compulsions to earn money and nonaccessibility to the centres for using the available facilities.

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A majority of the working children were also not aware of labour laws and other legal provisions concerning the minimum wages, accident compensation, P.F etc., etc. This shows the failure of the concerned government officials in making the existing laws or act or legal provisions popular among the parents and the working children at Sivakasi Block. The working children were also not aware of the various schemes and programmes launched by the Government. Table 16 shows that only 30.20 per cent of the children were aware of IRDP and few derived benefits from this programme. About 25 per cent of them were aware of ICDS and gained from it. So far other programmes such as TRYSEM, JRY and Adult Education, etc. are concerned, they were known to a small proportion of the working children and they derived benefits from these programmes. Lack of awareness among the working children about the operation of different government schemes and programmes refers to the apathy of the concerned officials towards those who desire special attention in this regard. All this shows how the working children suffer from health hazards leading to their physical under – development and ill health, which is a slur on the society and polity. The apathetic attitude of the concerned officials in particular and the government in general towards the working children is deplorable. References

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1). Becker, G. and Lewis, H.G, “On the Interaction Between the Quantity and Quality of Children”, Journal of Political Economy, April 1973, vol.81. 2). Cain, Mecd .T, “The Economic Activities of Children in a Village in Bangladesh”, Population and Development Review, 1977, vol.3, No.3, pp.201-229. 3) Report of the Committee on Child Labour, Ministry of Labour, Government of India, 1979, p.11. 4) Schultz, T.W., “The Value of Children: An Economic Perspective”, Journal of political Economy, April 1973, vol.81, No.2, pp.502-513. 5) G.P.Mishra and P.N.Pande, “Child Labour in Glass Industry”, A.P.H. Publishing Corporation, New Delhi, 1996. *****

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