Millions of children labour on in India

Press release
11 October 2007
“Sonali, has come back home (Sandeshkali bloc, West Bengal) after two years. She is 12 years old and has spent the last two years as a domestic worker in Babughat, Kolkata. Cleaning a three floor house and cooking for a five member household. Her eyes brim with tears as she shows her hand that was burnt by her employer, who poured hot dal on it as there was a delay in cooking dinner one day. She fled with the help of a considerate neighbour”

The Child Labour Prevention Act which was amended on 10th of October 2006 banned children under 14 working as domestic servants and in dhabas, restaurants, hotels, and other hospitality sectors, making employing the above groups a punishable offence.

One year on, how far has the act been implemented by the national and state governments? The Central government had asked state governments to develop action plans to rescue and rehabilitate children who are working as child labourers. So far only three State governments have published these plans – Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and even today 74% of child domestic workers are under the age of 16.

Government of India estimates (Census 2001) that over 12 million children aged between 5 and 14 continue to work in various occupations including many hazardous occupations. This includes about 1,85,595 children who are estimated to be engaged in domestic work and roadside eateries. NGO estimates are very different, and place the numbers of children employed in these sectors (domestic work and roadside eateries) for the country as up to 20 million (with 1 million children estimated to be working in these sectors in Delhi alone.)

In response to a Rajya Sabha question it was stated that as per the information received from the state governments, 2,229 violations of the recent notification banning employment of children under 14 as domestic help and in the hospitality sector were detected. 38,818 inspections were carried out by some state governments from whom reports were received and 211 prosecutions have been filed. The above figure’s clearly shows that there is a lot to be done.

Save the Children’s work in the states of West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra clearly shows that these children are routinely subjected to many different forms of abuse from unsafe working conditions and lack of food to being beaten, they are deliberately burnt or sexually abused.

Some of the key findings of our study on Child Domestic work have been:

* 99% of child domestic workers in Delhi and 84% in Kolkata are girls.
* Most child domestic workers are young girls who come from poor families and are forced to work for up to 15 hours a day with no breaks and little or no pay.
* 68% of the children surveyed had faced physical abuse and 46.6% of the children had faced severe abuse that had led to injuries
* 32.2% have had their private parts touched by the abuser, 20% had been forced to have sexual intercourse
* 50% of children do not get any leave in a year, 37% never see their families
* 32% of families have no idea where their daughters are working, 27% admitted they know they were getting beaten and harassed.
* 78% of workers receive less than Rs. 500 per month.
* In Delhi, 49% earn 1000- 1500 in a month. 16.4% get less than that.
* 42.7% do not know or have not been given their present address.
* 35% are brought to Delhi by relatives, 2% through agents and 22% through known agents.

“Childhood only happens once. For some it doesn’t happen at all.” said, Thomas Chandy, CEO, Save the Children, Bal Raksha Bharat. “To ensure that each child is guaranteed his/her childhood the government and the NGOs need to work towards implementing the CLPRA in spirit and form. Save the Children is working along with different Ministries at the national level and state governments in West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Maharastra to ensure its implementation.”

Save the Children is calling for:

* Better enforcement of the act ensuring that the children are rescued from banned occupations and the offenders are prosecuted.
* All state governments asked to formulate state plans of action to enforce CLPRA and implementation of the same.
* In line with UNCRC the age limit of the child be raised from 14 to 18. This would ensure that huge number of children aged between 14 and 18 working in hazardous occupations are rescued and rehabilitated.
* We need to be recognise that girls who work as Child Domestic Workers are at a great risk of being subjected to abuse.
* Undertake concerted campaigns to raise public awareness and strictly enforce penalties on employers.
* Undertake study and close scrutiny of the placement agencies, especially those working in source and destination districts to combat child trafficking into forced child labour.
* Effective plans from the government to rehabilitate former child workers and help them re-enter schools and benefit from India’s various poverty alleviation programmes, especially in the areas they come from (source areas).

For more information, contact: Anuradha C. Maharishi
Media and Communications Manager,
Save the Children
on +-91-9811626122 or
a.maharishi@savethechildren.in

Source: Save The Children

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