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Children drafted for campaigning in many segments in Belgaum district

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DISTURBING: Children of Harugeri of Raibag (SC) Assembly constituency who worked for a candidate of a national party during campaigning.
DISTURBING: Children of Harugeri of Raibag (SC) Assembly constituency who worked for a candidate of a national party during campaigning.

Vijaykumar Patil

All that they know is that their parents get money when they go for canvassing

Child Labour Act and the model code of conduct do not say anything about it

Child welfare committee chairman says action can be taken in such cases

Belgaum: In what could be a disturbing development, children aged less than 14 are being either engaged or hired for campaigning by contestants fielded by national political parties or those contesting independently.

Interestingly, the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986, which prohibits engaging children in certain employments and regulates the conditions of work of children in certain other employments, does not speak of children being engaged or employed as workers in electioneering.

However, when certain incidences were brought to the notice of Deputy Commissioner and Chairman of the Belgaum District Child Welfare Committee, M.E. Shivalingmurthy, here on Tuesday, he said action could be taken in such cases.

Children are openly campaigning in favour of contestant(s) in several Assembly constituencies of the district but none in the Department of Women and Child have bothered to take note of it, not even the Election Observers or Section Officers in the department.

Though Mr. Shivalingmurthy initially denied any such a practice in the district, he said action could be taken if it came to light when photographs pertaining to campaigning in Raibag (SC) and Ramdurg Assembly constituencies in the district were produced.

In Harugeri village of Ramdurg, a group of four children, apparently belonging to poor families, all aged less than 14 and who have just passed fifth and sixth standards in a local Kannada-medium school, were found canvassing for a candidate. They had identified themselves as workers of the political party by wearing the caps gifted to them recently. That apart, all the four boys said they were paid for the work — to go door-to-door and appeal to voters to vote for their candidate.

Sadashiv Gundappa, Kiran Ramappa Kamble and Balappa Pappakka Kamble told The Hindu that the party leaders had paid Rs. 70 and gave a cap to each of them. However, the money was handed over to their parents at the party election office opened in the village. Mallesh Dilip Kamble said he was paid Rs. 20 for the entire season to canvas for the candidate.

These boys said they were enjoying campaigning since they had holidays. However, they said they were not aware of anything called child labour. What they know is that their parents got some money when they campaigned for the candidate.

Children were seen actively participating in campaigning for an independent candidate in Belgaum North Assembly constituency.

Even the Model Code of Conduct of the Election Commission is silent on such issues.

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