Misery goes on for India child workers
By Renu Agal BBC News, Delhi

Shanta says she was beaten regularly by her employerShanta looks like any other six-year-old, except there is an open wound on her head, her hands are swollen, chapped and grey and she can barely walk.
She is the youngest of the three little girls aged six to 13 years who were rescued last month from Faridabad in the state of Haryana.
Badly beaten and bruised, the girls all worked as domestic helps just a few miles away from India’s capital, Delhi.
In October, the government enacted a law banning children under 14 from working as domestic servants, at teashops, food stalls, restaurants, hotels or in the hospitality industry.
What has baffled many is the reluctance of local police to prosecute the family that employed the children for violating the new legislation.
I was woken at four in the morning and then I had to wash the clothes, sweep and mop the floor
Shanta, former child labourer
The sentence for breaking the new child labour law carries a prison sentence of up to two years and a fine of up to 20,000 rupees ($450).
Shanta says she had been working with the family for the past year after her brother left her there.
“I used to work in water the whole day. She [the employer] beat me up regularly with a stick for not finishing my work on time. I was woken at four in the morning and then I had to wash the clothes, sweep and mop the floor,” she told the BBC.
According to Shanta, she was given rice only twice a day – served on the floor – and was made to sleep in the bathroom.
She said that she never complained about her plight as that would have meant more beatings.

The children’s hands are cracked and scarred from hard work
Two other girls, Rita and Sunita, say they were also abused and locked up like Shanta.
They were rescued by a local non-governmental organisation (NGO) after a neighbour watched them being beaten up and informed the police.
The police filed a complaint against the employers but only under the less severe Juvenile Justice Act rather than the tougher new law.
“These girls were trafficked from West Bengal and then they were illegally confined as bonded labour, they were abused and made to work. Still their employers were not booked under the Child Labour Act,” said Rishi Kant of the Shakti Vahini NGO which rescued the girls.
Worst fears
The employers have already been given bail.

Thousands of children work in roadside food stalls
Police say they could not have brought a prosecution against Shanta’s employers under the Child Labour Act because the girls were being paid for their work.
“The Child Labour Act is applied only when children under 14 are not paid for their work and when they are trafficked, and since this did not happen, this law was not applied to them, says Faridabad police superintendent Mahinder Singh Sheoran.
Experts say the Child Labour Act does not make that distinction. They say that it bans all children under 14 working as domestic labour and in roadside eateries and hotels.
Haryana Labour Minister Birender Singh supports the district administration’s stand but following pressure from the local media has now ordered that the employers be charged under the Child Labour Act.
Social activists were largely sceptical about the efficacy of the new law when it was brought into force in October. They say cases like Shanta’s confirm their worst fears.
NGOs say that as children continue to work in inhuman conditions, many in the political and administrative establishment continue to remain indifferent to their plight.
Shanta, Rita and Sunita are not the girls’ real names.


Coalition Chairperson Gets Award on Work on HIV/AIDS

The Chairperson of the National Media Coalition On Gender Based Violence HIV/AIDS and Human Trafficking recieving an Award from UNAIDS Chief for her Sensitive Reportings on HIV/AIDS.

The Media Coalition Congratulates The Chairperson Ms Mohuya Chaudhuri .

CJ takes tough line on female foeticide

CHANDIGARH: Expressing concern over the continuously declining sex ratio in Punjab and Haryana and also the plight of child labourers, the newly-appointed chief justice of Punjab and Haryana high court, Justice Vijender Jain on Monday said that the State Legal Services Authority (SLSA) would be dedicating year 2007 to child labourers. He is also the patron-in-chief of SLSA. Justice Jain has also directed SLSA in Punjab to create a mass awareness programme to combat the rising trend of female infanticides in the state. Talking to TOI, the Chief Justice informed that year 2007 would be celebrated as a year of awakening. Mass awareness programmes to rehabilitate child labourers would be launched under the auspices of the State Legal Services Authority. The Chief Justice also expressed concern over the rising cases of female infanticide in Punjab. ‘‘My effort is to make the State Legal Services Authority of Punjab to take the rising cases of female infanticide as a challenge so that sex ratio in the state could be stabilised. Apart from that, efforts should also be made to highlight other social evils in the state,’’ informed Justice Jain. In order to channelise SLSAs in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, the Chief Justice has appointed Justice S S Nijjar as the chairman of Punjab State Legal Services Authority, Justice J S Khehar as chairman of Chandigarh Legal Services Authority and Justice Mehtab Singh Gill as chairman of the High Court legal Services Committee. The Chief Justice of India, Justice Y K Sabharwal is also expected to join in this endeavour. He would be visiting Sangrur and Patiala on December 17 to participate in a seminar to spread awareness against female foeticide.

Crude facts

If facts are to be believed, between the time you read today’s and yesterday’s papers 275 female foetuses would have been aborted in various parts of Punjab alone. According to latest reports, one lakh female foetuses are aborted every year in Punjab. India has not signed a large number of international statues and therefore gets away with its responsibility towards the international community on this front. Female foeticide alone satisfies four of the five conditions set out in the Genocide Convention. The crime already matches, even surpasses, the worst episodes of genocide as 50 lakh female foetuses a year are aborted after sex determination tests. Lancetm, a British journal, estimated that over 10 million girls were lost in India over the last 20 years. The national average sex ratio has gone down from 972 in 1901 to just 933 in 2001. Punjab’s sex ratio of 793 in the age group of zero to six years is the lowest among all 28 Indian states and six union territories. In Haryana, there are about 861 females for over 1,000 men as opposed to the national average of 927 women.