Deepika Arwind

About 150 children have been rescued in the past two years

Very few boys working in the domestic work sector are rescued

In most of the cases the employers offer compensation

Bangalore: The incident involving Basavaraje Gouda and his wife Lata Gouda allegedly assaulting their 13-year-old domestic help for buying a bun without permission is a marker of a few important issues. For one, it brought to the fore the issue of violence on under-aged domestic help in the city. Next, it was a pointer to the vulnerability of children even in communities that ought to know better than to hire children as workers.

Vasudev Sharma, Chairperson of the Child Welfare Committee, to which this case was brought, says very few boys working in the domestic work sector are rescued. “Mostly we receive cases of girls in the sector,” says Mr. Sharma, adding that five to 10 cases of girl children working as domestic help have been rescued every month in 2008.

Out of the approximate 150 children rescued only in the domestic work sector over the past two years, none of the employers have been convicted, according to Mr. Sharma. Reiterating this is Suchitra Rao, who has been working on child labour issues in the State for the past five years.

According to Mr. Sharma, one of the possible reasons why the conviction does not take place is because of the compensation offered by the employers. “This year five to 10 cases that have reached the Labour Department entailed compensation for the child,” says Mr. Sharma.

Ms. Rao adds that sometimes after the arrest of the employers for both violence and employing children as labourers, the accused are let out on bail after which they abscond or are said to be absconding by the police.

“Not all cases are registered with the Labour Department due to which they do not reach their logical end of going to the Sessions Court,” says Mr. Sharma.

The background of the children is often similar: they are all trafficked. “The reason why fewer children are being rescued is not because it implies less number of them are working as domestic help but that rescue operations are not close to what they should be,” adds Mr. Sharma.

Even though “domestic work” was notified under the category of “hazardous activities” under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 in October 2006, it has not shown a considerable decrease in the number of children working the domestic work sector, and the fact remains that not one employer has been convicted.