In 19 months, only 8,000 child labour violations detected in India

October 8th, 2008 - 11:19 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 8 (IANS) Nearly two years after employment of children as domestic help and in restaurants was banned, only 8,105 violations have been detected across the country. This, child rights activists say, is a reflection of the state’s inability to battle child slavery.To queries filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), an NGO working on child rights, the labour ministry said that the detections were made from October 2006, when the ban came into effect, and April 2008.

“Despite so many children working in ‘dhabas’ and homes every day, if these figures are what officials say is the real number of child workers, then it reflects the mindset of the officials who refuse to take it as a serious crime,” Bhuwan Ribhu, advocate and national secretary of the BBA, told IANS.

“At this rate, child labour will never be eliminated from our society,” he added.

This is not all.

According to the labour ministry, prosecutions have been filed in only 20 percent of the cases detected. And rehabilitation of most of the rescued children is a mystery.

The ministry also said that of the 8,105 detections of child labour, prosecutions have been filed in only 1,680 cases.

Child rights activists are shocked.

“Forget about other states. If you look at Delhi alone, the number of cases detected is just 26. And the cases filed is 12. When the Delhi government admits that the city has over 60,000 child labourers, isn’t this disparity too big?” asked Bhuwan Ribhu.

“Even more shocking is the fact that in most states like Delhi, there is no record of the number of rescued children in shelter homes or sent to their parents or enrolled in schools or rehabilitated. Where have the rescued children disappeared?” he asked.

S.R. Joshi, director of the labour ministry, which provided the statistics to BBA, refused to comment.

The notification on prohibition of employment of children as domestic help and in restaurants or roadside dhabas came into effect Oct 10, 2006. Violators could be jailed for up to two years and fined Rs.20,000. Clearly, the activists say, none of this is happening.

Going by the official document, with the exception of six or seven states, child labour in homes and restaurants seems to be virtually negligible in India.

Even in states where the number of cases detected is more in comparison to others, the number of prosecutions filed is very small.

For instance, in Andhra Pradesh, the number of cases detected was 4,308 while the prosecutions filed was just 189. In Uttar Pradesh, these figures stood at 729 and 92 respectively.

“In West Bengal, just 13 cases were detected. No figures are provided on the number investigated, prosecuted or rehabilitation of rescued children,” said Umesh Gupta, who on behalf of BBA had filed the RTI plea last month.

“In Madhya Pradesh, there were 2,382 investigations. However there is no information of the cases detected. But prosecutions were filed in 94 cases,” he added.

Clearly unhappy at the response and the discrepancies in the figures, BBA is planning to file an appeal with the labour ministry.

“We will soon file an appeal as we feel that there are several discrepancies in the data given to us. We had four definite queries: the number of child labourers statewise, number of rescued children, number of employers prosecuted and the kids rehabilitated. However, the figures given are very misleading and confusing,” Ribhu said.

“At this rate, child labour will never be eliminated from our society. It is time we start treating it as a serious crime,” he added.

(Azera Rahman can be contacted at azera.p@ians.in)

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