No age record of contract labourers kept

The plantation sector in Idukki is increasingly employing child labour as migrant workers and contract labourers from border villages are given work without checking their age.Till recently, the estates used to have a traditional system in which employment used to pass from one generation to another of worker families, preventing child labour.

The medium and small-scale estates in Udumbanchola and Peerumade taluks now employ workers from the northeast, in addition to those arriving on taxis daily from the border villages of Tamil Nadu. On major estates in Devikulam taluk also, migrant labourers are employed. The age of those who arrive in groups from other States are not checked before employing them. An official of Childline says it has reports of large-scale employment of child labour in the plantation sector. The main reason for it is the breakdown of the traditional system of employment in which a company provides accommodation to the workers in estate lanes. The younger generation of these labour families take up the work after they become adults and become permanent employees.

A new labour system came into being with the crisis in the tea sector 13 years ago, when the traditional workers left for their native places and took up other works. With this, the estates started hiring unskilled labour on contract. Though the tea estates in Peerumade are almost free of migrant labour, especially in the plucking section which needs expertise, the cardamom plantations largely depend on migrant labour. Childline officials estimate that the employment of child labour has steadily increased, though collecting the exact details is difficult as the employers keep no records of age. The official says migrant workers come with families and the children are also provided work on the plantations. Childline will soon do a preliminary survey of child labour on the estates of three taluks in the High Ranges.