MADURAI: Over 50,000 children from Madurai, Theni and Dindigul continue to be sent to the northern states to work in factories run by local merchants in violation of the Right To Education (RTE) Act and need to be identified and brought back, members of the Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL), Tamil Nadu and Puducherry said at the state-level conference on child labour held in Madurai on Monday.
C Visakan of Kottapatti in Theni district narrated how he was sold by his father for Rs 1,500 to a broker Solairaj from the same village in the year 2004, during his school holidays. He was taken to Chhattisgarh where he worked in a ‘muruku’ factory with other 13 year olds, for 20 hours a day in front of a fire. But he was returned to his parents when he couldn’t work after his employer injured him by pouring hot oil on his body. Rajkumar of Usilampatti and S Prabu from Polipatti had similar stories.
Later talking to media persons, P Joseph Victoraj, state organiser CACL, M Jeeva and B S Vanarajan southern districts organiser of CACL said that child labour continued to flourish as children were being trafficked with or without their parents’ consent to work in industries in the northern states. Many came from the three southern districts, predominantly the Usilampatti area, where studies had revealed that 60 to 70% of the trafficked children were from dalit communities.
Although they had identified about 24 families who had sent their children for labour up north, there were many more. In most cases, the government had no follow-up programme for child labourers rescued from their employees, like Balamurugan from Usilampatti who was among the 42 bonded labourers rescued recently and brought to Madurai. Balamurugan had been tortured and traumatized to such an extent that he had lost his ability to speak in public. Vanarajan said that the government should ensure physical, psychological and emotional settlement for these children as about 15% of these former child labourers end up returning to their work places. Child labour is punishable under the SC/ST prevention of atrocities act, where an affected child is entitled to a compensation of Rs three lakhs.