BENGALURU: Child labour has been a growing concern in the city and unfortunately, the number of cases reported as per the City Crime Records Bureau (CCRB) is less than the cases received by Childline. Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA), which covers the east, south-east, north-east, parts of central Bengaluru and Anekal, saw 31 cases, while CCRB reports show only 19 cases in the entire city.
As per the guidelines, once childline services are informed of a child labour case, the Department of Labour, Karnataka government, should be informed and labour officers in the respective jurisdiction, arrive at the spot for investigation. “After rescue, an FIR is filed by the labour officers and the child is produced in front of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) for rehabilitation,” says Vishalakshi, a coordinator of Childline at APSA.
However, in most cases, labour officers are unable to arrive at the spot as they need to follow protocol of arriving along with a team to investigate. In such cases, NGOs take up the matter along with the cops and later, present the child to the CWC. “But there isn't a clear picture about who should file an FIR. The labour department refuses to file one as they were not part of the rescue operation,” she says. With no FIRs filed, the legal procedure is affected. “For example, a girl from West Bengal was rescued eight years ago. Her case is still pending. She is now 21 and working as a beautician,” she says.
Additional labour commissioner, HL Guruprasad, admits that there is a flaw in the system but explains that as per the new amendment in the Child Labour Act, any officer can file an FIR. “It is true that nobody wants to file it as court proceedings take years,” he says, pointing out that Bengaluru has the highest number of child labour cases in the state.
Nagasimha, director of Child Rights Trust, says that most of these children migrate along with IT employees. “We get about six calls a week. Most cases are not reported, and even when they are, the people hide the child when we go for investigation,” he says. He adds, sometimes, a compensation of Rs 20,000 is given to the child. “But perpetrators get convicted for two years, and can still get bail.”