Saturday, August 04, 2007

The wage of innocence: Rs 1 for a kilo of foam

Tarannum Manjul & Rajendra Khatry


August 1 Indian Express: Administration officers of Haryana conducted a raid at a foam factory in Karnal, Haryana on Wednesday and rescued 14 child workers — all from the Dhanauli and Narayanpur villages in Barabanki district, UP.

The factory, Bhagwati Enterprises Ltd in the Nissing block, employed these children in cutting foam and paid them Rs 1 for a kilogram. The factory owner Pramod Kumar and manager Sanjay Kumar, who told the Karnal police that they was not aware these children were minors, have been issued challans by the Labour Department under the Child Labour Act, Payment of Wages Act and the Payment of Gratuity Act.

NGO Shakti Vahini Sanstha, which is actively involved in child and women welfare, played an active role in the rescue of these children. Social worker Rishikant of the Shakti Vahini said the children had written a letter to a local Hindi daily in Karnal about their difficulties. “All children were in the age group of 8 to 13 years. The owner told us he could not distinguish their age though it was evident on their faces,” Rishikant said.

Deputy Commissioner of Karnal B S Malik said the children are at present in the Madhuban Bal Bhawan. “They will be sent to the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences in Rohtak tomorrow to ascertain their exact age. Most children want to go back home, so we have called their parents,” Malik said. It is learnt that a total of 22 children were rescued from the factory but 8 were let off because they looked over the age of 14 years. SDM of Karnal R K Singh was also present during the raid. Superintendent of Police, Karnal, A S Chawla said that two among these have families nearby. Sources in the Karnal district administration have also revealed these children were working in the factory for several months. Initially, one was brought from UP and then the others followed.

Meanwhile, Newsline has found that parents of these children were aware the kids were being sent off to work in Karnal. However, they thought the work would be good. Since these villages are under heavy floods, it was difficult to trace the parents. But one village pradhan Moinuddin defended the decision to send away the children. “The parents had no idea the children would be exploited in such a manner. We are waiting for the administration to contact us so that we can get back our children,” he said. A local NGO Pani has also assured that the children will reach their parents.

The district administration of Barabanki has been informed about the rescue. The Chairman of the Central Child Labour Welfare Board Ajit S Kataria said he will try and ensure they are back safely. Superintendent of Police in Barabanki Shachi Ghildyal said she will find out if an organised gang is operating in this child-trafficking business.

Former general secretary of the Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee Gyan Sohota has lauded the efforts of the district administration in rescuing the children. “Poverty forces children to work. But the society should be aware that child labour is a crime,” he said.



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