14-yr-old girl pulls rickshaw for survival during lockdown

“I avoid heavy passengers; I make an excuse saying I have to go off to eat. I prefer women passengers,” Nandini says.

Patna: The lockdown has extensively affected the economically below average community globally. While several are suffering in one or other way, Nandini Kumari of Sasaram city in Bihar is forced to pull rickshaw.

It is illegal under child labour laws for Nandini to do any kind of work but the pandemic has left starving families with no other option than employing minors.

“But what can I do, I can’t let my family die of hunger,” said Nandini.

Nandini has mother Puja Devi and three younger siblings to look after. Her stepfather Prabhu Kumar left for Uttarakhand to find work. He hasn’t sent any money since.

The family doesn’t have a ration card as updating or acquiring ration cards is a challenge mired in paperwork and bribe demands.

Nandini contacted a businessman who owns several rickshaws and gives them on rent to those willing to ply them.

“I have to pay him Rs 50 daily. After that I take home around Rs 60 to 70,” Nandini says.

She adds that she can only earn this much as she gets tired after a few trips.

“Nobody ever helped us; no government official came to us. We never received money or rations during the lockdown; we have to buy food grain from shops.”

“I avoid heavy passengers; I make an excuse saying I have to go off to eat. I prefer women passengers,” Nandini says.

Nandini says passengers pays her less than the usual fare. “I never get more than Rs 30 for a trip. People say they have no more money and run away.”

“She’s a woman, how can she work? She stays at home and takes care of everybody,” Nandini said when asked about her mother.

Nandini and her stepfather used to clean toilets at homes, the local court and offices, but income came to an end with the lockdown.

“I used to earn Rs 20 to 30 at each place,” she says.

The family lives in a hut. The owner allows them to stay for free on condition that they take care of the hut.

“The roof leaks whenever it rains. But we have nowhere else to go.”

Nandini says she doesn’t like pulling a rickshaw. “But I don’t want to go to school, either, because I have to take care of the family. If I get any house cleaning work, which I do well, I think I can earn up to Rs 15,000 a month,” her eyes twinkle.

Rohtas district magistrate Pankaj Dixit expressed surprise when told about the girl. “You are the first person to tell me about this. I shall get an enquiry done and provide all help to the family under the government norms,” he said.

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