For some children there is no escape from labour

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HEAVY GRIND: The Government ban on employing children even as domestic help comes in force from Tuesday These children slug it out in Mayabazaar in Guntur on Monday.
HEAVY GRIND: The Government ban on employing children even as domestic help comes in force from Tuesday These children slug it out in Mayabazaar in Guntur on Monday.

P. Sujatha Varma

Beginning today, employing little ones is punishable under the law

  • Collector to discuss the issue with officials concerned
  • Last year, 500 rehabilitated in Vijayawada alone

    VIJAYAWADA: Distracted by the flash of a camera, the little boy hurriedly dumps the huge bundle of clothes in his hands and rushes inside the shop. His sunken eyes, shabby clothes and soiled hands speak of his status at the shop but his cagey employer insists that the boy is his son. "He did not go to school today and so, came to the shop to lend a helping hand," says the man as the boy looks at him with a blank expression.

    This is a common sight in most eateries, restaurants, cycle shops or residential areas where children below 14 years are employed in blatant violation of the amendment to The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, which comes into effect from Tuesday. As per the amendment, domestic child labour has been included in the list of industries where a ban has been imposed on employing children.

    Exploited lot

    Most of these children work because their families are poor and their labour is necessary for their survival. Compared to adults, children are often employed and exploited, as they are vulnerable, cheaper to hire and less likely to demand higher wages or better working conditions. Some employers even argue children are particularly suited to certain types of work because of their small size and `nimble fingers'.

    The administration, meanwhile, is gearing up to make Krishna a child labour-free district by January 26, 2007. Collector Navin Mittal will hold a meeting with the Mandal Development Officers, Mandal Revenue Officers and Mandal Education Officers besides officials of the police and labour departments at Machilipatnam on Tuesday to identify and eliminate challenges ahead on the way to curb child labour. "A lot of ground work has been put into effect towards elimination of child labour in the district and we are almost on the threshold of declaring Krishna as child-labour free district," Mr. Mittal says.

    Reminding that last year, nearly 500 child labourers were identified and rehabilitated in Vijayawada city alone, he says the administration will send out a strong message to caution people against encouraging the practice. "Now that there is a deterrent, we'll be able to adopt a tougher stand against the law-violators," he says emphatically.

    Project director of National Child Labour Programme in Krishna district K. Sivasankar Rao says drive teams have been constituted to spread awareness on the law. After a vigorous drive the authorities concerned will crack on violators, who will be liable for imprisonment for a period of three months to one year, in addition to a fine of Rs. 20,000, he warns. The review meeting at Machilipatnam will be preceded by CLEAR (Child Labour Elimination Awareness Run).

    Departments involved

    GUNTUR: The State Government proposes to involve all the departments concerned in tackling the child labour problem. Guntur district Collector G. Jayalakshmi will hold a meeting with Excise, Panchayat Raj, Animal Husbandry, Agriculture, Revenue, Municipal Corporation and Municipalities, SC, BC and ST Welfare Corporations/Departments to prepare a joint strategy for launching action effectively. Deputy Labour Commissioner S. Lakshminarayana said they would clarify the role of specific departments in implementing the action plan be finalised on Tuesday and what kind of vigilance to be maintained by committees at different levels.

    Banning children as domestic help was a sensitive issue and specific strategies to curb the menace had to be discussed at length, he said and opined it was difficult to monitor this activity in the privacy of four walls in odd hours. Since the department's efforts in curbing the menace in automobile and hotel industry did not bear any result people were sceptical of success of this new aspect.

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