They were said to be picking up fish that fell while being unloaded from boats
Ten children, including a girl, were rescued from Bunder here on Wednesday during a coordinated routine operation by various government departments to control child labour. The children were later produced before the Child Welfare Committee.
Assistant Labour Commissioner A. Venkatesh Shindihatti said the children used to pick up fish that fell when the catch was unloaded from boats that came to the old port at South Wharf. The children then used to sell the fish elsewhere, he said. Some of them used to help the women who clean the fish, he added.
Most of the rescued children were from Tamil Nadu and spoke broken Kannada, and the rest were from north Karnataka. Officials took custody of the children and brought them to the office of the Deputy Commissioner before they were taken to the Observation Home (now converted into a Bala Mandira) at Bondel.
Two doctors who were present at the spot identified three children as over 14 years of age through a dental examination.
At the Deputy Commissioner's office, several men and women turned up claiming custody of the children, some of them crying loudly.
It was a routine operation jointly undertaken by officials of the departments of Labour, Social Welfare, Backward Classes and Minorities, Women and Child Development, and the Mangalore City Corporation, along with the help of the police. Five teams were set up and on reaching the spot at 6 a.m., they separated and inspected the South Wharf area, and found the children engaged in these activities.
Such raids are conducted especially during summer as children have holidays, according to Mr. Shindihatti.
He said there was no question of booking a case against anybody as there was no identifiable employer. The Government would now be responsible for rehabilitating these children and enrolling them in schools, he said.
However, if the children were working under somebody, a criminal case would be registered against them and a fine of Rs. 20,000 slapped. This fine would be deposited with the Deputy Commissioner and the interest accrued would be used to fund education and welfare activities for such children, he said.