CHENNAI: Observing that the government officials who demand bribe for issuing e-passes are “blood thirsty wolves”, the Madras High Court has sought for stern action against them. “The officials are bent upon making profits even in these times. It is very shocking to know about the presence of such cut-throat, corrupt officials in the system. They are like the cruel, blood-thirsty wolves, and should be dealt with an iron fist,” a division bench of Justices comprising N Kirubakaran and VM Velumani said on Friday.
The bench was passing interim orders on a habeas corpus petition filed by CM Sivababu, president, Tamil Nadu Desiya Makkal Katchi. The petition prayed for a direction to the collectors of various districts and the Tirupur police, to produce six school-going teenage girls who were allegedly kept in the illegal custody of Chenniappa Yarn Spinners Private Limited in Avinashi as child labourers, and to set them free.
During the course of hearing through video-conference, the judges were told that most of the teenage and adolescent children were taken for work in the mills, by the brokers, during the lockdown period, without getting e-passes. Neither they were tested for the virus nor any fitness certificates obtained for them.
‘Tip of the iceberg’
“This is a classic case which demonstrates how the corrupt government servants utilise any situation to make illegal gains. While easing the restrictions for people to travel in case of emergencies, the government introduced the e-pass system. The case in hand is only the tip of the iceberg. Throughout the State, there are brokers for getting e-passes with a fee ranging from `500-`2,000. The media has widely reported about instances of getting e-passes on payments. This aspect has to be looked into seriously by the government,” the bench said.
Authorities asked to stay on vigil
“Hundreds of such companies, like the mill in this case, are located in Tirupur, Coimbatore and Erode districts and it is being said that child labour is rampant in these areas. The public authorities, Labour department, and Child Welfare Committees (CWC) of these districts should be vigilant and conduct raids regularly to eradicate child labour,” the judges said. The bench was told by Tirupur district SP that a case has been registered against the mills and the children were left under the care of the local CWC.
The matter was posted for further hearing on August 20.