Kerala High Court takes up case of less-equal children
Quoting from TNIE report, the Kerala High Court expresses concern over children being used for begging or selling knick-knacks at busy spots
Published: 19th October 2022 02:51 AM | Last Updated: 19th October 2022 02:51 AM | A+A A-
KOCHI: Taking note of a poignant Express photo feature on nomadic children on the streets, published last Saturday, the Kerala High Court has initiated a suo motu litigation. Quoting from the news feature, the court expressed concern over children being used for begging or selling knick-knacks at busy junctions and tourist spots.
The proceedings were initiated based on the oral directive of the High Court Juvenile Justice Committee chairman, Justice Shaji P Chaly. The court noted the photos and details published in Kochi Express, as it called for the protection and rehabilitation of “less fortunate” children on the streets.
On Tuesday, a division bench, comprising Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Chaly, directed the state government to file a report on the steps taken to ensure the protection of such children, at the earliest.
The court also issued notices to the secretary to the government, the Social Justice Department, the Women and Child Development Department, the Kerala State Legal Services Authority and the commissioners of the labour and excise departments.
In the suo motu proceedings, the bench also pointed out a report on drug abuse among school children, and how rackets were targeting school and college campuses.
The Express photo feature left many TNIE readers, too, stirred. Several of them sought a follow-up. So we look at what the officials have to say.
‘They run away’
Recent raids by the labour department led to the rescue of five-six children labour in Ernakulam. In one case, a child was found at a flat, where his mother worked as domestic help. In another case, five children were found roaming at a dumping yard in Kalamassery. All the children rescued were below the age of 14.
A top labour department official, however, notes the “victims were with their parents, who claimed they could not leave their children alone at home”. “We have been conducting surprise raids at traffic signals, too,” the official adds. “There are times when we come across children selling things like balloons and pens. However, they scurry away to their hideouts on seeing us.”
‘No viable solution’
“If a child is found alone on the streets, we rescue and send him or her to a shelter home,” says Ernakulam Child Protection Unit officer Sini K S. “However, if they are found supporting their family, we don’t have the right to take action. It is evident that many migrant children under the age of 14 are involved in child labour. But, we don’t have a viable solution to the issue.”
In Thiruvananthapuram, instances of child labour have been lower. “We have been continuously organising drives to stop child labour,” says Thiruvananthapuram child protection officer Chitralekha S. “It is difficult to track these children because they keep migrating.”
The Don Bosco Veedu Society recorded four cases of child labour between April 2021 and March 2022 in the capital city. “More awareness is needed to curb this social issue,” says Fr Saji Elambasseril, director of Don Bosco Veedu Society (Childline).
“Chala market and Kazhakkoottam are areas from where we get maximum calls.”
‘Strict action needed’
Childline officials, meanwhile, highlight that ‘adolescent labour’ cases are comparatively higher. “Many cases involving children above the age of 14 have been noted. Child labour laws pertain to children under the age of 14,” says Ernakulam Childline coordinator Christian Joseph.
Christian calls for stronger deterrence. “Strict action against child begging, for instance, can deter rackets,” he says.
Taking note of the Express report, Kerala child rights commission chairman K V Manojkumar says whenever children are rescued and sent for rehabilitation, their “so-called parents come up with documents like birth certificates”. “Officials are forced to send the children with the parents. We are often caught in a helpless situation,” he adds.