TAMIL NADU

“Law does not give us food and shelter’’

It was hardly an easy mission for officials during the four-hour child labour rescue operation in various cotton fields in the Thalaivasal block as they faced a stiff opposition from farmers who had heated exchanges with them on Thursday.

When the team of 15-plus officials spotted child workers engaged in cross-pollination work in fields, the farmers claimed that they were very well aware of child protection laws and the stringent punishment for employing them.

“Non-availability of workers in local villages has forced us to bring children from other districts, who are from downtrodden families’’, they claimed.

They said that the highly labour-intensive work needed to be continuously carried out for 45 days without a break and locals were not ready for the work, even if paid well.

The children were paid well and taken care of as if they are members of their families, they observed.

“Show us labourers and we will stop employing child workers’’, said the angry farmers in one voice.

They also protested the officials’ move to take away the girl children, saying that they had assured the girls’ families of the children’s safety.

When the officials found a 13-year-old girl working in a land, her parents claimed that they were the land owners and she had the right to work in the field.

“The law does not give me food and shelter. Only if we work, we get food’’, said the farmer.

It took 20 minutes for officials to explain the importance of education, the government’s assistance and the law. Finally, the girl, who is studying in Class VIII, was seen entering the school.

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