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Saturday, Oct 19, 2019

MP: Satyarthi gets Nobel, but plight of child workers still deplorable

At a time when Kailash Satyarthi was being awarded Nobel peace prize for his struggle for child rights, a BJP woman leader was busy organising a handicraft fair, where majority of the stalls are being manned by minors.

bhopal Updated: Oct 16, 2014 15:40 IST
Shruti Tomar
Shruti Tomar
Hindustan Times

At a time when Kailash Satyarthi was being awarded Nobel peace prize for his struggle for child rights, an influential BJP woman leader in MP was busy organising a handicraft fair, where a majority of the stalls are being manned by minors.

The week-long Ojaswini handicraft fair at Bittan Market Dussehra Ground in Bhopal, inaugurated on October 12, is organised by a trust headed by Sudha Mallaiya, a women leader of the BJP's women's wing and wife of state finance minister Jayant Mallaiya.

The fair, organised by Ojaswini Samdarshi Trust headed by Mallaiya, has children manning majority of stalls except for those selling automobiles, two wheelers, garments and electronic gadgets.

In 2012, the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 was amended by Centre banning employment of children under the age of 14. Despite the ban, HT came across over a dozen children manning the stalls at the fair.

When this reporter visited the fair on Tuesday, Rahul, 10, was busy approaching customers at a stall selling rangoli colours and designs. A few stalls away, Faizan, 12, was operating a merry-do-round. Aman, 9, waited on customers at the stall selling crockery.

All these children, engaged on different stalls do not go to school despite the Right to Education being implemented in the state. The children, whom HT spoke to, said they were working at the stalls to substantiate their family's earnings. "It's not my shop. I am just working here to earn money so that my family could celebrate Diwali," said Rahul.

When asked if the merry-go-round, he was operating belonged to his family or not, Faizan said, "No it's not owned by my Abbu (father). I am working here at the rate of Rs 100-150 per day. It is not the first time when I am operating it. It's my regular work."

Child rights watchers said political leaders, in particular should ensure rights of children should be protected. "Employing a child under 14 for any work is a cognizable offence and punishable under law," said a former member of sate commission for protection of child rights on the condition of anonymity.

"Being a party leader and wife of finance minister, chairperson Sudha Mallaiya should ensure that no violation of child labour laws should take place at the fair organised by her NGO," he said.

Mallaiya denied any knowledge of children being employed at the fair, saying the fair management was responsible for the arrangements. "I am not looking after the arrangements of the fair. I am going to there right now and if I find children working, I would take action against those who employed them."

First Published: Oct 16, 2014 13:43 IST

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