The Child Welfare Committee (CWC) has found a way to discourage small-scale production units in the city from employing children and thereby prevent their exploitation.
The CWC has made it mandatory for the accused employer to issue a National Savings Certificate (NSC) of a stipulated sum in the name of the child rescued from his unit as a fine. The amount depends on the age of the child.
“Rehabilitation of rescued kids is a major problem. We bring them to children homes, where they stay till their families are traced. It is a time-consuming process as the parents are counselled to ensure that the child doesn’t return,” said Shaila Mhatre, CWC chairperson, Dongri children’s home.
The CWC conducts a hearing with each rescued child after his/her family is found. Also present at the meeting is the accused employer, who is made to pay a compensation.
According to Mhatre, the NSC will help deter child labour. “Initially, we try to convince employers to stop employing minors and even conduct joint meetings with NGOs and police. However, when that does not work, the police raids the units,” said Mhatre, adding, “We have successfully managed to secure certificates for several children recently and this is proving to be a deterrent.”
From January this year, at least 6,843 child labourers working in various industrial units, including shoe-making, bag-making, zari and buffing, have been rescued in the city. As per records of Pratham, the state government’s task force consisting of important departments and NGOs, 23,000 children have been rescued in Mumbai and surrounding areas since 2005. A majority of them are from West Bengal, UP and Bihar.
BG Shekhar, deputy commissioner of police, enforcement, said, “We are strengthening the operation against child labour by increasing the number of raids on production units that employ them. The provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act and Child Labour Act are stringent with a maximum jail term of seven years.”
Five children rescued in 2011 reunited with families
Mumbai: In October 2011, five children between 10 and 15 years were brought to the children’s home in Dongri.
The CWC initially thought their families had abandoned them, but it was later learnt that the children had been working at a bangle-making unit.
“The five children, including a girl, were from Bihar. We spoke to the children extensively. We then traced their employer and got him booked,” Shaila Mhatre, CWC chairperson, Dongri children’s home said.
Mhatre said none of the children were paid for their work. “The accused had thrown them out and was not willing to pay them. He had employed lawyers to fight his case,” she said.
“Since it becomes difficult to prove the presence of juvenile employment in court, we began negotiations with the lawyers employed by the accused to ensure that the case doesn’t fall flat,” said Mhatre.
Mhatre said they managed to ensure that three lawyers didn’t take up the accused’s case.
“After many months, the employer finally agreed to settle the matter and paid Rs45,000. The money was divided among the five children according to the tenure of their employment. The families of the children were summoned and they were sent back to Bihar,” she said.