Child labourers’ age to be ascertained

GRIM FUTURE: Child labourers are often denied the basic rights of freedom and dignity.

GRIM FUTURE: Child labourers are often denied the basic rights of freedom and dignity.   | Photo Credit: — File photo

Staff Reporter

Assistant health officers will be deputed for the exercise, says Mayor

“Appropriate medical authority will have to issue age certificate in the case against an employer”

Chennai: Mayor M. Subramanian on Tuesday said that assistant health officers of the Chennai Corporation would be asked to ascertain the age of rescued child labourers so that employers of those below 14 years can be prosecuted in court.

He was addressing a training programme on rehabilitation of child labourers for labour inspectors, factory inspectors and the Corporation staff. A total of 926 child labourers were identified in the city this academic year and a majority of them have been enrolled in transit schools.

Child labour prevention laws state that an appropriate medical authority would have to issue the certificate of age of a rescued child when the case against the employer comes up in court. Employers of children below 14 years can be punished with a fine of Rs.20,000 and a year of imprisonment. But most cases do not end in prosecution when employers or the child workers themselves state that they are above 14.

The Corporation’s step to engage assistant health officers in determining a child’s age has raised some concerns among child welfare experts who have work in the rehabilitation projects. A doctor said it was possible to only roughly estimate a child’s age and this loophole was being used to get away without penalty. Even with medico-legal training, doctors would have to have radiology and dental equipment to make a scientific judgement of a child’s age.

Another rehabilitation worker said emphasis should be placed on rescue and rehabilitation rather than on prosecution, as employers often paid bribes to escape the law and continued to make the children work.

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