Divya Ramamurthi

18 Government officials found employing child labourers in the past three years 18 Government officials were found employingchild labourers in the past three years

  • Labour Minister had promised action against 15 employees in June
  • Youngest of the girls rescued was aged seven

    BANGALORE: Over the past three years, 18 Government officials were found employing child labourers. So far, no departmental action has been taken against any of them.

    In June, Labour Minister Iqbal Ansari had promised action against 15 employees. He had stated that the Labour Department would conduct surprise checks in the houses of Government employees. Nothing has come out of it.

    Since Mr. Ansari's promise, non-governmental organisations have rescued child labourers from houses of three Government officials: chief medical officer of the Central Government Health Services in Vijaynagar, chief engineer of a project under the Irrigation Department and an employee of the veterinary hospital in Hebbal. According to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) set up to look after children in need of care and protection, cases against 11 State Government officials and seven Central Government officials for employing children have been brought to their notice since 2003.

    Battered childhood

    The youngest of the girls employed was aged seven and had been working for five years till she was rescued by a non-governmental organisation. In one case, a girl had several marks across her back, her arm had been broken and had bite marks all over her body. Most of the children employed were 10 to 13 years old and had been working at least two years before they were rescued.

    Government officials belonging to several departments, including two from the Police Department, an assistant director of the Department of Women and Child, Director of a Software Technology Park under the Department of Information Technology, have been reportedly employing children.

    Officials from Bangalore Mahanagara Palike, nationalised banks, Commercial Tax office and Survey of Karnataka, have been implicated for employing children as well.

    The Karnataka Civil Service Conduct Rules as well as the Central Civil Service conduct rules make it an offence for Government officials to employ children below 14 years.

    A breach according to rules would lead to disciplinary action that could include suspension or termination of service. The recently passed Act against domestic child labour does not apply to these cases.

    Wage compensation

    CWC members said no action had been taken against these officials except making them pay wage compensation in six cases. The wage compensations have been upwards of Rs. 10,000 to a maximum of Rs. 40,000.

    "Heads of some of the departments have threatened our members," said a member of the CWC. The Government departments said they were not aware that any of their employees engaged children. The officials said they make employees take an oath against child labour. "They employ children surreptitiously," says an official of the Women and Child Welfare Department.

    Special Commissioner of the BMP, Gaurav Gupta said, "If the CWC sends us the names, we will definitely take action. So far we have not heard from them."

    Mr. Gupta added that in future the BMP would ask all officers to give a self-certification saying they have not employed children.