Father's debt, son's burden

Published : Feb 28, 2003 00:00 IST

M. Annamalai, with his father D. Munirathinam. -

M. Annamalai, with his father D. Munirathinam. -

M. ANNAMALAI is all of nine years. For the last one year he has been working for master weaver Punniyakodi at Pillaiyarpalayam in Kancheepuram in return for a Rs.1,500 loan his father had taken to pay off the grocer. Annamalai has studied up to Class III and longs to go back to school.

For working from 7 a.m. to 7.30 p.m., sometimes even up to 9 p.m., Annamalai is paid Rs.100 every month. Four other children work with him on the four looms his master has. The working conditions are abysmal: No toilet, not even drinking water. He carries his food from home every day.

When he is not working on the loom he is doing household chores for his master. Scars and injuries on his head, face and back bear testimony to regular beatings. Last October he was beaten badly on his head for working slowly. His complaints to his father were of no avail. He was sent back to work the very next day; but when he resisted going to work, his father beat him. Unable to take the pain and the burden of work, Annamalai, along with his co-worker, 10-year-old Imran, ran away from home. Not knowing where to go, Annamalai went to his grandparents' house, 75 km away. He was promptly brought back home after two days and forced to go back to work.

Unable to do anything, Annamalai continued to work only to be beaten more every day. Last December, he was beaten severely - he lost a tooth - for coming to work without having a bath; being peak season, he had to report for work at 5 a.m.

Annamalai hates going to work. He wants to go back to school. "Can anyone help?" he asks. There is silence.

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