NCPCR demands state intervention to put children back to schools under the Right to Education Act

Bonded labourers, including children, who were rescued from ‘murukku' making units in Maharashtra, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh and psychologically affected due to mental and physical torture in cramped working spots, are yearning for rehabilitation.

The Madurai district police, on March 24, brought home 42 bonded labourers who were rescued from three States. Fifteen among the 42 labourers were children and 21 among them were Dalits. The few lucky ones have been taken back to their homes by their parents but many are still at homes for runaway children in Madurai.

The condition of the youth and children, who were rescued, looks pathetic and it could be found that most of them were psychologically affected and needed rehabilitation, said Henri Tiphagne, state representative, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, who visited the affected persons.

Mr. Tiphagne told The Hindu that the district administration should take action under the Bonded Labourers Rehabilitation Act. “This case and the previous case in which children rescued were more in number actually is child trafficking against the vulnerable social groups and we have to fight it tooth and nail.”

“As a representative of NCPCR, I visited them and found that most of them are psychologically affected. They need rehabilitation in a proper way and efforts should be taken to make them go back to schools. State and district administration should take serious efforts to put them into residential schools and the Right to Education Act should be used to take them to these schools.”

“Remaining rescued bonded labourers could be given proper rehabilitation with the help of the State Nodal Officer, District Mental Health Programme, who is based in the city. They could be given land and help to have a self sustained economic activity. Compensation amount of Rs. 20, 000 under Bonded Labour Rehabilitation Act and in the case of Dalits an enhanced compensation of Rs. 60, 000 under SC/ST POA Act should be given without delay,” he said.

Mr. Tiphagne cited the classic case of Bandhua Mukti Morcha vs State of Tamil Nadu, 16 October, 1986, where the Supreme Court, after the liberation of bonded labourers in and around Kodaikanal, instructed the government to provide specific facilities for the rehabilitation of liberated labourers, which included provision of land.

When asked why can't there be steps to prevent such trafficking of children and forms of bonded labour, he said that this had been a phenomenon in and around Usilampatti area. “It is just a tip of the iceberg; we never had any state-level intervention and no serious high-level police action has been taken. There are reports that still 500 more children could be working in ‘murukku' making units in northern, eastern and western parts of India.”

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, is scheduled to visit India during the third week of April. “Probably she could take cognizance of the issue and address it,” he said.

Women and Child welfare department should take serious note of this issue and also take steps to prevent such trafficking . The NCPCR state representative also opined that the Madras High Court should suo motu monitor the investigation and State and district legal aid centres should swing into action.

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