Hyderabad: Prosecution against employers of child labour has become a challenge. The Telangana child labour department rescued 1,706 kids in 2016 and 1,085 employers were booked under the Child Labour Act. The rest went scot-free by flashing age proofs issued by doctors without conducting tests.
E. Gangadhar, joint commissioner of the Telangana child labour department, said, “Whenever we book a case against employers, they walk free by paying a small fine. There is not even a single case so far where an employer was imprisoned in the state for employing children. The jail term should last at least three months and the courts should impose heavy fines. These can bring down child labour.”
In some cases, parents, employers and the medical staff team up to produce fake certificates. The joint commissioner added, “Du-ring the court hearings, many parents and employers produce the age proof issued by medical professionals. The courts should not accept the age proof issued by medical professionals based on the appearance of the child. We are also insisting on filing an FIR against employers as soon as a child is rescued.”
Though the Child Labor Act has increased the penalty for employing children from Rs 30,000 to Rs 60,000, this has proved insufficient to act as a deterrent, said senior officials from the child labour department.
According to them, more stringent punishments are needed. “Co-ordination between various agencies involved in the anti-child labour operations is also a challenge. Community participation is also important,” the commissioner added.
P Damodar Reddy, a senior High Court lawyer, said, “If there is no proper evidence from the labour department, prosecution becomes difficult. There is a shortage of staff in the labour department due to which they are unable to produce proper evidence against employers.”
Child labour still prominent in cities
A recent census by CRY (Child Rights and You) showed that the overall decrease in child labour is 2.2 per cent in the last 10 years. Surprisingly, child labour has grown by more than 50 per cent in the urban areas.
In TS, there are about 3.73 lakh child labourers among whom 49.2 per cent are girls in the age group of 5 to 14 years.
Child labourers are employed in the rural areas as cultivators or in household industries. In the urban areas, they work as domestic servants and in construction sites. Urban residents employ the largest chunk of child labourers as domestic helps.
Many of domestic labourers do not even know how much they are paid as their salaries are directly paid to their parents and the agents who brought them.
Varsha Bhargavi, coordinator of the state resource centre for the elimination of child labour department, said, “Child labour is more in the urban areas because lot of posh apartments employ young girls as domestic servants. These apartments have lot of security which prevents scrutiny.”