Forty per cent of domestic servants in India’s financial capital are under 15 years of age and the number seems to be increasing at an alarming rate, according to a report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“About 40 per cent of the domestic help were girls under 15 years of age. A substantive section of domestic help comprises girls, working for precarious wages and their numbers appear to have increased,” the Human Development Report compiled by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and UNDP said.

As per the 2001 Census, there were only 1,297 girls as main workers and 209 girls as marginal workers, which may not reflect the reality on ground. It appears that the official data on child labour is highly underestimated.

“Often these young domestic helpers are abused, verbally and physically and also sexually exploited,” the report said.

Also distributing is the manner in which a mother, who is a domestic help, takes a girl child as her unpaid assistant, finally leading the latter becoming a domestic servant, the report said.

If one considers children working in local trains, bus stops, grocery shops, shoe-shine boys, newspaper vendors, waste pickers, hawkers, vendors, domestic workers, baby sitters, coolies, helpers in shops, the real picture will emerge, it adds.

Recently, many small time television actors were arrested for physically abusing and torturing their minor maid servants in the city.

In August this year, the city police arrested actor Urvashi Dhanorkar for allegedly physically and mentally torturing her ten10-year-old domestic help Rameshwari Jadhav.

Ms. Dhanorkar was, however, released on bail within a few hours of her arrest.

The Government had in May 2007 registered a case against singer-actor Suchitra Krishnamoorthy’s mother for allegedly making a minor work at their house. The charges were, however, dropped later.

In February last year another actress Huma Khan was arrested on charges of illegal confinement, rape and child labour for allegedly torturing her minor maid servant.