Plywood units at Perumbavoor in Ernakulam under scanner

The recent rescue of eight children aged below 18 years reportedly engaged in hazardous jobs at plywood units in Perumbavoor has left the authorities concerned about the possibility of child labour being rampant in the sector.

While the children rescued were above 14 years and legally permitted to be employed in non-hazardous jobs, the working conditions they were found to be in were allegedly far from ideal and not in compliance with rules. The children are being sheltered here for their parents to turn up to fetch them.

“Contractors are being engaged to arrange children, since they can be hired for very less wages. We are planning joint drives with the police and labour departments every month in the plywood belt of Perumbavoor to check potential exploitation of children,” said Sini K.S., District Child Protection Officer.

The District Child Welfare Committee (CWC) has also raised the issue with the district administration and the police even as it fears that the problem goes beyond child labour in the industrial belt of Perumbavoor. “Both boys and girls are being brought in large numbers for labour and even as trafficking victims. There are instances where girls are under the impression of being married only to end up as sexual abuse victims. That children excel in the trade quickly is another reason for employing them,” said Bitty Joseph, Chairperson, CWC.

Saw Mill Owners and Plywood Manufacturers Association dispelled the notion of child labour being rampant in the sector and claimed that even in the instant case the detection of child labour was at best sporadic considering the number of units examined. “In many cases, employers have little scope for verifying documents produced at the time of hiring. There are also instances where persons just a month or two short of adulthood are hired in the presumption that they are already matured only to be proved wrong when they are medically examined by the authorities. Many a time employers accede to the request of families to accommodate their children on humanitarian grounds,” said Mujeeb Rahman, president of the association.

Benoy Peter, executive director of the Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development, said children might end up in industrial units either as labourers or owing to the helplessness of their parents in ensuring their safety when they are away working. “The post-COVID economic crisis has also accentuated the problem, with children being forced into jobs to add to the family income after falling victims to learning gaps and ending up school dropouts,” he said.

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Printable version | Jun 22, 2022 11:37:49 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/plywood-units-at-perumbavoor-in-ernakulam-under-scanner/article65553023.ece