After rescuing 17 child workers from agricultural fields in Thalaivasal block of Salem district, officials are now focusing on reintegrating them with their families.
Over the last one week, 11 children (all aged under 14) were rescued from cotton fields when they were carrying out cross pollination works. Six others were rescued from various other agricultural farms.
Since a case has been registered against three farmers under Section 367 (slavery) of the Indian Penal Code, officials of the UNICEF-supported Integrated Child Protection Project are exploring the possibility of claiming Rs. 20,000 as compensation from the Department of Labour for the family of each of the seven children who were rescued from the farmers.
Child Welfare Committee (CWC) chairperson A. Xavier said that a complaint would be lodged against a few more farmers who had engaged eight girls and two boys on their farms.
Under Section 38 of the Juvenile Justice Act, rescued children would be handed over to CWC in their native districts, he added.
From Javadu Hills
As most of the child workers were from Javadu Hills in Tiruvannamalai and Villupuram districts, officials in Salem proposed to conduct a meeting with their counterparts from the two districts on October 22 to chart out plans to prevent migration.
The Salem officials have written to the Collectors of these districts for discussions on educational opportunities for children in the hill areas, starting of new schools and linking the families with social protection schemes.
Officials said non-functioning of schools in the areas, which was a factor for child labour, would also be studied and posting of teachers in case of their shortage would be discussed.
P. Balamurugan, Child Protection Consultant of UNICEF, told The Hindu that instead of rescuing them from agricultural lands, stopping the migration would give more productive results.
After the children are sent back to their districts, they and their parents would be counselled against child labour and they would be monitored by the officials.
Meanwhile, farmers who had employed child workers in Thalaivasal block have started sending them back to their native places fearing action. However, officials said that the exact number of child workers sent back could not be ascertained as they were sent during night.