It is important that residents' welfare associations help eradicate child labour in homes, said Labour Minister T.M. Anbarasan. He was speaking at a function to mark the launch of an awareness programme in Chennai on Monday.

“It is very difficult to identify children employed in homes, which is why the role of residents' welfare organisations becomes important. If each of these associations resolves to eradicate child labour in their locality, we can ensure that no child is made to work,” he said.

Residents who come across cases of children employed in their apartment complex or colony - either to take care of infants or to clean or wash, or engaged in other forms of labour – could report them by calling 1098. If they desire, their identity would not be revealed, the Minister said.

In the last four years, over 17,000 rescued child labourers in the State were admitted to special schools as part of the National Child Labour Project, Mr. Anbarasan added. Residents and welfare associations seem quite positive about being able to bring about a change. V. Rama Rao, secretary, Lakshmi Nagar Civic Welfare Association, Nanganallur, said: “We will definitely do our best to support the Labour Department. School education is free now and by employing children, we are denying them their right to education and a good future.”

Stressing the need for awareness, he says the association would be able to address 500 member-homes and ensure no one employs a child.

Sathi Thomas, patron, Kilpauk Residents' Welfare Association, said: “We will include awareness messages in our newsletters. It is a very important issue and all of us are responsible.”

Mayor M. Subramanian, who participated in the function, said the civic body had rescued children who were working at the dumping yards in Kodungaiyur and Perungudi and admitted them to special schools. Labour and Employment Department secretary T. Prabakara Rao said legislations alone cannot bring about a change. “A change in mindset among people is very important.”

Thomas George of UNICEF said though the number of children engaged in labour had come down in the State, it was still challenging to identify child labourers in agriculture and in homes. Thomas Chandy of Save the Children said the cultural and social acceptance for child labour was the reason it was so rampant. “In some homes child labourers are subjected to physical and sexual abuse,” he said.

Organised by the Labour Department, in association with UNICEF and non-governmental organisation Save the Children, the event also included a human chain formed by NSS volunteers of Anna Adarsh College for Women. Commissioner of Labour Hans Raj Verma, Additional Commissioner of Police (Law & Order) Shakeel Akther, Director of University of Madras' Students Advisory Bureau N. Raja Hussain, and Principal of Anna Adarsh College for Women Jayashree Ghosh spoke.

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