Special Correspondent

Thiruvananthapuram: Childline services in the city are gearing up to deal with a spurt in the number of distressed children in the wake of the total ban imposed by the Union Government on child labour from October 10. The Don Bosco Veedu Society and the Childline network expect a sharp increase in the number of children who may be thrown out by employers, once the new law comes into effect.

The ban, imposed under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, prohibits employment of children as domestic servants, servants in dhabas, restaurants, hotels, motels, teashops, resorts, spas and other recreational centres. Anyone employing children in these categories would be liable for prosecution and penal action under the Act. The Ministry of Labour has already notified the ban giving a three-month mandatory notice.

Childline volunteers fear that the threat of legal action would force many employers to abandon child labourers or send them away with a little assistance. According to unofficial estimates, more than 10,000 children are employed in various sectors in the district. While the majority are hotel boys, the rest are employed in bakeries, packing units and various other shops and for door-to-door sales. "With a large number of children set to be freed from labour, the situation calls for an emergency response," says Father Philip Parakkatt, director, Don Bosco Veedu Society. The Don Bosco Society has drawn up a district-level vehicle campaign to create awareness about the act. The campaign would be flagged off by Chief Judicial Magistrate S.Soman. District Collector N.Ayyappan and senior officials from the Social Welfare and Labour departments are expected to participate in the function.

Squads set up

The Labour Department has set up four squads at the State and regional levels to enforce the ban. The State-level squad is headed by Additional Labour Commissioner S. Oliver. The regional squads are headed by Joint Labour Commissioners V.L.Anil Kumar in the south, K.L.Vimalan in the central region and V.Sankar in the north.

The District Labour Officers and the ALOs are members of these squads.