Sunday, July 30, 2006

Domestic labour: Reddy promises action

Domestic labour: Reddy promises action


Tejeswi Pratima

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Saturday, July 29, 2006 (Mantada):

Following NDTV's report on how children as young as six were being bought as domestic help for Rs 7000 a year, the Andhra Pradesh chief minister has promised immediate action.

But the labour minister says one has to tackle the problem from the roots.

Chief Minister Rajasekhara Reddy saw the NDTV story and promised the practice would stop immediately.

"I have already instructed our officers to get the matter verified and if it is true, I will take every needful action to see that it is stopped. Child labour is something that every one of us has to do to stop.

"They have to be given education, it is their constitutional right. It is their birthright, nobody can snatch it away," said Reddy.

The responsibility to initiate action rests on the state's labour minister G Vinod. He will have to start from scratch as his ministry has no statistics on how many children are employed in labour or more specifically, domestic labour.

"The laws in the country at the moment are not made out to look at domestic child labour. We are certainly going to see how we can regulate domestic child labour because we are looking at how it can addressed properly," said G Vinod, Labour Minister, AP.

NDTV has been getting reactions from various people on their shock at the agonising story of the innocent children of Mantada. But it is not a story restricted to Mantada alone.

Thousands of innocent lives are victims to an urban society that puts its necessity ahead of someone else's childhood.

Auction market

Mantada village is virtually an auction market where children can be hired off the road to work as domestic labour.

Twelve-year-old Durga worked as domestic help at a home in Hyderabad for one year to earn Rs 7000 rupees but now she is back home waiting to take up her next assignment.

In the meanwhile, she is learning to cook because that will fetch her more salary.

"If children stay back in the village, they will get spoilt and that's the reason we are sending them to work in houses. They will have better health, facilities and also earn money in the process," said Suramma, Durga's mother.

Durga knows she cannot hope to go to school like the children at the home where she worked.

Her parents are landless agricultural labour and there are four mouths to feed.

"In the house that I used to previously work in, had children of my age. Everyday they would prepare to go to school, I also felt like studying," said Durga.

Mantada village, which is 40 km from Vijayawada, is almost like the child domestic labour capital of the country.

Supply of children for domestic labour is a well-entrenched and organised trade here.

Virtually every family sends out a child to work in faraway homes not just in Andhra Pradesh but even Delhi and Kolkata.

Idly Appana, who runs a Tiffin centre, is one of the 20 brokers in Mantada.

"For every placement I get thousand rupees and each time the salary increases I charge an extra hundred. If the placement is good sometimes I even get paid two thousand rupees or more," said Appana.

Appana says every year, at least 200 children are hired from Mantada and the contracts are usually for an year.

Contract labours

Locals tell NDTV that there is an option of renewing the contract every year on June 1.

A seven-year-old girl will get Rs 4000 while a 14-year-old who can also cook, will cost Rs 15,000. Half of that amount has to be paid as advance to the parents.

Girls are preferred over boys because they are presumably better at domestic work and also more submissive.

"It seems that they are being sold away like cattle and people from all over the country come to pick the best, the most healthy person and again bargain for rates and conditions of work and take them away and go.

"It is, I think, quiet appalling, shocking and outrageous that in a civilised world like today that we are tolerating children who are trafficked like this. It is as good or as bad as flesh trade," said Shanta Sinha, Child Rights activist.

Mantada has only been gaining in notoriety over the last two decades as a place from where children can be just bought off the road to work as domestic labour.


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