With cross pollination in BT-cotton plants in rural pockets having begun, officials are closely monitoring whether child labourers are employed in the field.

A survey by UNICEF revealed that migration of children from Javadu Hills in Tiruvannamalai, Vellimalai in Villupuram and Kolli Hills in Namakkal is on the rise last year when compared to 2011. They were mainly involved in cross pollination in fields in Thalaivasal and Pethanaickenpalayam blocks in the district from October to December.

Officials at the Society for Monitoring and Implementation of Child Labour Elimination (SMILE) told The Hindu that various steps, including preventing migration, monitoring dropouts in schools and readmitting them to schools run under National Child Labour Project (NCLP) were taken. Resolutions were passed in the Grama Sabha meetings that children would not be employed and awareness pamphlets on child protection rights were distributed to farmers, they added.

Officials at UNICEF said that as per Section 2 (K) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, juvenile or child means a person who has not completed 18 years of age. Hence, employing them is prevented, they added.

Besides, assistance from the departments of Agriculture and Revenue has been sought for monitoring the activities on agricultural fields apart from involving Block Level Committees. Schools have been asked to report the absence of students so that dropouts can be prevented.

Officials said a comprehensive rehabilitation measures, including family linked welfare schemes, can prevent migration of children. Also, starting NCLP schools in hilly areas can prevent migrations, they added.

Officials said that since the parents of the migrant children’s are given advance in June, the agents who act between farmer and the parents are also being traced.

Children rescued

Despite strict monitoring and awareness programmes by officials of Integrated Child Protection Programme (ICPP) and UNICEF, four child workers working in cross-pollination for production of Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) cotton seeds in Veppampoondi village in Thalaivasal block were rescued here on Friday evening.

Officials said that two boys and two girls from Kondrani Village in Javadu Hills were found working in the villag. They were produced before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) and the boys lodged at Anbu Illam while the girls lodged at Life Line Trust. Officials added that their parents would be informed and further course of action would be decided.

When The Hindu on Tuesday visited Unathur village in Thalaivasal block, about 86 km from here, two boys and two girls were actively involved in collecting pollen from male plants in an 80-cent land. They were from Karuthakadu, a village near Vellimalai in Villupuram district, and were engaged for the past one week. Of the two, a boy and a girl were aged less than 14 years, which they admitted. They added that they used to work in brick units and cotton fields during seasons and had discontinued their studies after Class V. “My parents were also migrant labourers and they sent me”, the girl said.

Later, in the evening, when the Village Administrative Officer and the Block Coordinator inspected the field, the owner had sent the boy and the girl to their hometown fearing of action by officials. ICPP officials said that they were closely monitoring the employment of labourers and would take stern action against the farmers if children are hired.

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