Believe it or not. The Union Territory has no child labour, if you are willing to believe the Labour Department’s data.
While it is fairly common to see young children working in various occupations across the town, there is no child labour in the entire union territory according to data available with the Labour Department. All we have to do is take a walk along the beach road to prove the government is wrong.
A number of children of varying ages can be seen selling stickers to the general public. Other more known and visibly seen trades where child labour is employed include auto workshops, chips stalls and roadside butcher stalls, where young children can be seen working, some of them handling dangerously sharp instruments.
In the past one year, The Hindu alone has reported of at least four cases of child labour in various industries, where children under the age of 14 have been employed. However, the labour department still maintains its stand that there is no child labour.
The labour department has been operating a Child Labour Cell since 1999, and according to an RTI filed by E. Ezhilarasan for details of the activity of the cell, so far three persons accused of child labour in Villianur, Ariyankuppam and Oulgaret have been acquitted. Only one case ended up in conviction, that of an mechanic shop owner in Sedarapet, but even in that case, the accused was acquitted by a sessions court on appeal. Till date, there is not even a single person has been convicted of child labour.
According to another RTI filed by S. Thirumal, the enforcement authorities from various wings of the labour department have been conducting periodical inspections under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. The labour Department has said that “there is no child labour found in the field of domestic work, restaurants and dhabas.”
From 1999 to 2012, the Department has spent a total of 1.87 crore on the child labour cell, when they have only taken up three important cases.
Labour Commissioner G. Srinivasan confirmed that there was no child labour in the UT.
“Still, we are planning to conduct a comprehensive survey on child labour to identify its prevalence.”
The Department of Economics and Statistics was currently working on the questionnaire and the modalities.
The survey would begin next month, Mr. Srinivasan said.