GOLAKGANJ, Aug 16 � As young Sakina Khatun and her friend, both under 18 and �labourers� at the South Salmara supari factory in Dhubri district, chew on a sugarcane, there is not a hint of regret on their faces. And that is because ignorance runs so deep that for them, there is no question of their life being different from what it is now. The Child Labour Act and all literacy programmes of the Government seem like big eyewashes as one enters the factory. For the young girls, going to school to earn an education has no meaning, and there is little hope of life beyond their work.
However, the mood inside the factory can hardly be called depressing. Sakina and her friend were taking a break, fully aware of the fact that less work would mean less money, but for lives spent amid scarcity, may be a little more or a little less here and there does not really make a difference. Delighted to spot a visitor, one is led inside the factory by these two enthusiastic girls and introduced to their fellow workers.
The mood inside the factory is an odd mixture of cheer and gloom. Bright, cheerful faces looked up for photographs, but tiny hands kept the work going. They are eagerly awaiting the season when betel nuts are brought in, in large quantities to be processed for making suparis.
Some of them, oddly enough, have received formal education and some children do go to school, but that hardly has any meaning in the larger perspective of things. For, they are not aware of the adult education programme being introduced in South Salmara-Mankachar subdivision in Dhubri. For them, child labour is something they take for granted. The more things change in the world outside, the more they remain the same inside the factory. Inside the factory, these little children will continue to laugh and joke in their own little world to make the most of the situation. But that cannot wipe out the harsh realities of poverty, ignorance and exploitation.