An inquiry into the rescue and relief measures taken by the Gurgaon police under Operation Muskaan has revealed that cases against violators, who employ minor children, are mostly not registered by the police and thus escape scrutiny by the judiciary.
Data reveals that only 39 cases were registered against employers in child labour cases in the last three years. Even among these, not a single case has resulted in conviction in a court of law, as most victims and their kin turn hostile and settle the cases outside the court.
Of the 39 cases registered in the last three years, 32 were settled by imposition of fines (₹3.4lakh) and seven are still pending in the labour court.
In most cases, the families don’t get support from either the police, district administration, child welfare committee, district child protection unit or voluntary organisations such as the Childline.
“Children who are already victims, feel more victimised by those who rescue them and throw them in homes, where they wait for their release. Children do not get sense any justice in the process and that is why they are not interested in prosecution,” Anant Kumar Asthana, a child rights lawyer in Delhi High Court, said.
Another major problem is that almost all cases of child labour are lodged by a third party — an NGO or Child Welfare Committee or Childline. A lot of blame is also assigned to the manner in which these rescue operations are carried out.
Shakuntala Devi, Child Welfare Committee chairperson, said, “We do not get any support from the child labour department or from the police. No child labour cases were registered during Operation Muskaan despite so many children being rescued.”
On the other hand, NGOs working with children allege that the state is not serious about dealing with child labour cases.
Arijit Adhikari, state coordinator of Bal Bigul- Haryana Alliance on Child Rights, said, “Neither the parents nor the deputy child protection unit or CWC approaches the district legal services authority for providing legal aid to the victims. There is the lack of coordination among the child welfare committee, police and the labour department.”
The labour department officials said they will look into the matter. “We have given ₹3.4 lakh to the victims in last three years. This amount is the fine collected from employers. The employer should be punished and strict action taken to ensure the offence is not repeated,” said additional labour commissioner Jaibir Singh Arya.