Anasuya Menon

Childline intervenes; counselling to be provided to the girls "People will respect me if I say I am working in a mill"

A middleman has promised the girls job at a cotton mill"People will respect me if I say I am working in a mill," says a girl

COIMBATORE: Vani (name changed on request) has come all the way from Kurinjipadi in Cuddalore district to Coimbatore looking for a job. Around 16 years of age, the prospect of a job has been too much for her to resist. "Work in a city with Rs.85 a day and lots of money to take back home for Diwali." she is dreaming.

She is one of the 13 girls, who reached Coimbatore on Thursday morning from villages in Cuddalore. They were spotted by Childline volunteers at Ukkadam bus stand and taken to their office.

Vani hails from a village, where earning a square meal requires hours of strenuous labour in the fields. "For a day's work, we get somewhere between Rs.25 and 30, which is not enough for the family. Also, we don't get work every day," she adds. A middleman has promised the girls job at a cotton mill near the city. There are several girls, who are brought to the city for jobs in mills, say Childline officials. Even while they are promised good salaries and incentives, most of them will be made to work for more than eight hours, they allege. Most often the girls and their families are allured by the middlemen.

Some of these girls has earlier worked in mills around Coimbatore and Erode, but left the place because of the restrictions on bonded labour.

"The salary they promised was good Rs. 1,800 per month. But, the employer said that we would not be allowed to go home for three years," says Rajni. "They had even offered Rs. 30,000 a year if we agreed to stay there for three years," she adds.

Poverty continues to drive several young girls from various parts of the Southern districts to Coimbatore, a land full of promises to them. They are school dropouts, who are unable to find employment in their villages and forced to seek it in cities. One of them says, "People will respect me if I say I am working in a mill." These girls will be provided counselling and sent back to their villages accompanied by volunteers from Childline, a Childline official says. The volunteers will spend sometime with the families and assess the situation. Those, who wanted to come back to the Anbu Illam, will be taken in, they say.