Giving them back their childhood

Sarana Balyam project comes to the rescue of hapless children, most of them migrants

Child labour and irregularly employed adolescent boys among migrants dominate those rescued and rehabilitated in the district under the Sarana Balyam project of the Women and Child Development Department.

Since its launch through the District Child Protection Unit (DCPU), 17 youngsters aged under 18 years have been rescued under the project. Of this, 11 were migrants out of which nine accounted for child and adolescent labour.

Sarana Balyam, aimed at cracking down on child labour, beggary and exploitation of children, was initially introduced on an experimental basis in Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Alappuzha and Kollam districts before it was expanded across the State in 2018.

“We rescued three 13-year-old boys engaged in child labour. One boy from Tamil Nadu was engaged as a domestic worker in Paravur and the other two from Bihar were employed in a rubber sheet mill at Edayar near Aluva,” said Jeffin Franco, Child Rescue Officer, DCPU. While the boy from Tamil Nadu was repatriated, the other two remain sheltered in a child care home.

Besides, four adolescents children, two each from Assam and Odisha, who were found employed in hotels in Perumbavoor region were rescued and repatriated to their home States along with their parents.

Two other adolescents from West Bengal were found employed in a hotel at Ernakulam KSRTC stand without minimum wages and for excessive working hours following which labour and police departments and the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) intervened. On being warned, the hotel owner started paying minimum wages while the working hours were reduced in compliance with the law governing adolescent labour.

A tricky thing

“Migrant children make repatriation under the project tricky. Often they are found engaged in labour or begging along with their parents and even if they are rescued and repatriated to their home States, they may return to some other district within a matter of months,” said Mr. Franco.

Five children, all from the district, were rescued after being found in need of care and protection. Among the rescued were four children belonging to two mentally unfit parents. They were found locked up in their homes without being sent to schools. Another child was found abandoned by parents.

Three children have since been sent with their parents while one continue to remain in a shelter home. The abandoned child was found to have an elder brother and was sent with him.

Three children were rescued from the streets after being reported as suspected cases of child begging. “Two children had their parents living under the Edappally flyover and were heavily into drinking. They are now sheltered in a home as they could neither be repatriated nor could be restored with the parents who claim to be from Puducherry but have steadfastly declined to share details of any relative,” Mr. Franco said. Another child was also rescued from the street from parents living in dubious circumstances in Piravom. DCPU shelters children rescued in any of their 96 child care homes in the district registered under the Juvenile Justice Act till they are sent back to their parents or guardians.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 9:07:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/giving-them-back-their-childhood/article30864868.ece

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