In the wake of growing abuse of domestic help and minors, the Maharashtra government on Tuesday filed cases against three actresses - Bollywood star-singer Suchitra Krishnamoorthi and television stars Laxmi and Uma Khan - for allegedly employing child labour.
"We have initiated police action against them under various sections of the Child Labour & Prohibition Act, 1986, Juvenile Justice Act and other laws for employing child labour," Labour Secretary Kavita Gupta told IANS.
She also promised action against television actress Urvashi Dharnorkar, who was arrested on Saturday on charges of beating, burning and confining her 10-year-old maid.
Earlier, Labour Minister Nawab Malik told journalists that the labour department had information that at least two actresses had employed minor girls (below 14 years of age) as domestic labour.
"We have initiated the necessary proceedings against the actresses. We appeal to people to give us information about individuals who employ child labour so we can take suitable steps," Malik said.
Gupta said that Suchitra, former wife of film director Shekhar Kapoor, had employed a minor girl, Naranti from Meghalaya. Laxmi had employed Laila Khan while Uma Khan had employed Shanti Vishwakarma at their homes.
"Some NGOs got a tip off and managed to rescue the minor girls - Naranti, Laila and Shanti. With the help of the labour department, they have lodged police complaints against them," she said.
Gupta said that employing children below 14 years of age in households was prohibited under law because domestic work of all kind is categorised under "hazardous activities".
"If convicted, it attracts a penalty of Rs 20,000 and/or jail term ranging from six to 24 months," she added.
The action comes barely three days after Dharnorkar was arrested for beating her maid. However she managed to secure bail within hours, causing a furore.
The victim, Rameshwari is lodged in a juvenile rescue home.
"The government feels that for such heinous offence, (Urvashi) should not have secured bail so easily. Now we are contemplating other serious charges against her, including laws pertaining to bonded labour and child trafficking," Gupta said.
She said there had been many similar complaints that people from the glamour world were employing children as domestic servants.
"These famous personalities are role models for society. Whatever they do, the masses blindly follow them. This magnifies the problem," Gupta said.
The Child Labour Prevention Act, 1986, was amended in October 2006 to ban employment of children under 14 as domestic maid and in restaurants, hotels and other hospitality sectors.