K.V.S. Madhav

Child labour ban to be enforced from October 10

  • Strict action against those employing children as domestic helps
  • Child rights activists blame parents and agents for the mess

    HYDERABAD: Mary, barely 14, committed suicide unable to bear the ordeal of working as a domestic help. No action was initiated and the issue closed, dubbing it an `unnatural death.'

    Another domestic help Krishnaveni, hardly 11-years-old, fled after her employers allegedly tortured and brutally beat her up. The employers neither informed her parents nor the police about her going missing.

    It was only when her parents needed her details for applying for a ration card that they found out that she was missing. The hapless girl was discovered by chance by a TV network.

    The case did not come under the Child Labour Act as domestic labour was not prohibited under law.

    The culprits could have been brought to book had the Centre's ban on employing children as domestic helps came into effect last year itself.

    The lack of such a provision prevented legal recourse for several children who were rescued from domestic child labour in the city last year.

    The ban comes into vogue on October 10 but will it work or fade into yet another cosmetic exercise in the absence of proper implementation and rehabilitation mechanisms is to be seen.

    No action yet

    The scepticism is not unfounded. Months after an earlier notification banning public servants from employing children as domestic helps and asking State Governments to take action against erring officials, no cases have been booked, showcasing the ineffectiveness of the enforcement agencies.

    Labour Department officials, however, say they are determined to ensure that the proposed ban will not meet the same fate. But how far can they go is the big question.

    Refined avatar

    Child labour is more an unwritten pact, sometimes tacit, sometimes forced on parents. Family members and friends are conduits, besides agents. "Several children work against advances taken by parents.

    This is nothing but a refined avatar of bonded labour," a child rights activist says.

    But the proposed ban that facilitates stringent punishment and legal recourse offers a new hope, they say.