Monday, November 29, 1999

Three years on, child labour ban remains on paper

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Saroj Kumar Pattnaik New Delhi, May 16 (PTI) Goindi, a 14-year-old from Jharkhand, used to eat dough and raw rice in the middle of the night stealing from her employer''s kitchen here. Durga, 14, was beaten up and kept without food and clothes through out the day for her every innocent mistake at the house of a software engineer in Bangalore. Geeta, 13, had to turn about 1,000 bricks at a kiln in Orissa for a meagre Rs 10 every day for more than six months. What these children have in common is that they are among the fortunate few who have been rescued and having the opportunity to go to school. But, there are thousands others who are spending most of their time in factories, shops, roadside eateries or at their employers'' house as domestic help. In October 2006, the government amended the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986, enforcing a complete ban on employment of children under the age of 14. Despite the ban, employment of children continues unabated and is still seen as a social practice rather than a crime, a national social audit on child labour has found. It also found that enforcement of the existing law has been tardy and the society at large has been insensitive towards the sufferings of children and their rights. "We all are guilty. The whole country is guilty for the sufferings that the innocent children are undergoing," said Magsaysay award winner Arvind Kejriwal during a national hearing held here over the social audit. "We all should look into ourselves and find out how we are directly or indirectly encouraging child labour," he said, after listening the heart-wrenching stories of several child workers, rescued from different places of the country. The event was organised by Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL) and Campaign Against Child Trafficking (CACT). According to the Ministry of Labour and Employment, there were about 12.6 million economically active children in the age group of 5 to 14 years at the time of 2001 census. Of them approximately 0.12 million were working in hazardous jobs. An estimated 1,85,595 children were employed as domestic helps and in roadside eateries. And most of them were trafficked by placement agencies operating in poor states like Orissa, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. But data by unofficial sources say that around 20 million children are reported to be employed in domestic sector and dhabbas, restaurants and roadside eateries. (More) PTI SKP JO.

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