Tirupur-based Centre for Social Education and Development (CSED) and Ekta Resource Centre for Women organised a day-long consultation meet here on Friday on issues pertaining to ‘Sumangali scheme’ prevalent in the textile industry.

C.Ramasubramanian, State Nodal Officer, Mental Health Programmes, explained how agents exploited poor families. “Young girls are lured with the promise of high salary and comfortable accommodation. Instead, the girls are made to work long hours and live in shabby and unhygienic rooms."

He further noted that Unable to endure the hardships, many girls suffer severe physical and psychological damage which even results in suicides.”

‘Protect their rights’

District Child Protection Officer of Integrated Child Protection Scheme (Madurai District) M.Vijayalakshmi emphasised the need to protect the rights of young children who are forced to forego education and become bonded labourers.

A historical perspective of Sumangali scheme and how it came into existence in the textile factories was given by K.Narayanaswamy, Director, Centre for Social Research.

“In Sumangali scheme, all labour-related laws, including international conventions and declarations are violated,” he said.

The other speakers were C.Nambi, Director, CSED, Selva Gomathy, Deputy Director of SOCO Trust, and Bimla Chandrasekar, Director of Ekta Resource Centre for Women.

Nearly 75 people, including representatives from non-governmental organisations, panchayat raj institutions and trade unions, college students and National Service Scheme volunteers participated and collectively drafted a set of demands to be presented to various organisations.

The demands included a ban on employing children aged below 18 years in industries and compulsory free education for all children.

A working group consisting of 15 members from various civil society organisations was formed. They will get together once in two months to discuss rescue and rehabilitation measures and offer counselling and legal support to families and children who had suffered under Sumangali scheme.

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