Rescued child labourer was employed by an industrialist

He is only 11 years old, but Chetan (name changed) was employed by an industrialist as caretaker for his three children — two of whom are older than him — at his house in an apartment complex in the city.

The boy, barely four-ft. tall, told Labour Department officials who rescued him on Thursday that he had been working for the last three years at the industrialist's house.

The boy was spotted washing clothes by a group of journalists who were attending a press conference at a hotel adjoining the apartment on Thursday morning. The journalists lodged a complaint with the District Labour Officer H. Gopal Gowda, who raided the apartment with a team of Labour Department officials and the police.

When the officials reached the house, they also found a girl working there as domestic help.

She reportedly told them she was 15 years old, but officials were not convinced with her “inconsistent” narrative and took her also into custody for an age determination test.

Chetan told the officials that his parents lived in Manjanady and were employed in the industrialist's plywood factory.

“One day, I accompanied my father to the factory and was spotted by the industrialist's wife. She told my father to send me along with her to work at her house. My father agreed,” the boy said.

Listing out his daily chores in his statement, Chetan said he was woken up at 6 a.m. and allowed to go to sleep after 10 p.m. Apart from escorting his employers' children to school and back, a job that required him to carry their schoolbags, the boy was responsible for washing the children's clothes, cleaning the bathroom and watering plants.

Asked if he was ever beaten or abused Chetan said, “One day the industrialist hit me with his belt after I accidentally dropped water on his car while watering the plants.”

The boy, who initially appeared scared, calmed down after he was given a chocolate.

A smile lit up his face when he was told he would be sent to school and he said, “I like school very much. I want to go back to studies.” He claimed that he had studied only till second standard before being put to work.

Speaking to journalists, he said, “I want to become a policeman and nab those who beat children.”

He said he loved playing cricket and watching the game on television.

Addressing press persons, Mr. Gopal Gowda said his department would press criminal charges against the boy's employers.

“As per a Supreme Court directive, we will make the employers pay a compensation of Rs. 20,000,” he said.

The industrialist refused to speak to the media.

Keywords: child labour

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