When Durga was stripped, kicked and beaten

A social audit proves that three years after the government banned employment of children in domestic sector and eateries, the problem is far from over

danish

Danish Raza | April 30, 2010


Durga, in Delhi, to attend the national hearing on social audit on ban on employment of children in domestic sector and eateries
Durga, in Delhi, to attend the national hearing on social audit on ban on employment of children in domestic sector and eateries

This is the story of Durga. Not the goddess Durga, but a 15 year old girl from Uttarpara in Kolkata. Seven years back, Durga lost her father to cancer. He was an alcoholic. A few months after that, her mother’s dead body was found in a paddy field near her house. Durga was told that she was killed due to some land dispute.

“Jameen ka kuchh jhagda tha.” Her maternal grandmother, who was now the sole custodian of Durga and her three sisters, sold her to a man who assured that the girl would be safe with him. Within a week, Durga found herself working as a domestic help in an apartment in Bangalore. One mistake and her employer- a software engineer, would beat her with anything he could get hold of. “One day, I broke a glass by mistake. They took me to the salon and got my hair shaved,” says she. At another occasion, she was stripped and beaten with a broom. They would even pour hot oil on her body. “Garam tel daalte the,” says Durga showing burn marks on her back. It went on for a year.

Then one day, police, with the help of an NGO, rescued her. Durga does not work anymore. She studies in class six at a national child labour project school. NCLP is the labour ministry’s flagship scheme on eradication of child labour. Durga is lucky. She is no more counted among 1.86 lakh children, who, according to the office of the registrar general and census of India, are engaged as domestic workers in the country.

Civil society says that the actual number is much more. In October 2006, the government brought a notification banning the employment of children below 14 as domestic help, eateries and other industries. A social audit done by campaign against child trafficking and child labour, however, shows that the ban is yet to be implemented in spirit. The audit show that 5096 children were rescued from restaurants and domestic sector in ten states in the post October 2006 ban. Out of these, only 155 were reported to be from the domestic sector.

“The excuse given by policy makers is that it is not possible for the labor inspectors to enter house and conduct raids,” says the audit report, released on Friday in the capital. While not a single child was rescued from the two sectors in Goa and Madhya Pradesh, 1878 children were rescued in Bihar in the last three years. Prosecutions have taken place in only 59. 8 percent of the total number of cases. A total of 797 children have been rehabilitated under various government schemes in ten states. There are 20 cases where penalties were imposed on the employers.

According to the report, most states were apprehensive in giving information regarding child labour rehabilitation cum welfare fund meant to be set up in all the districts, as per a supreme court ruling. “Whether the state governments have met their obligation of depositing Rs 5000 in every case into the said fund for assistance to the families also cannot be gauged from the response received,” says the report.

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