“It is essential that the system is made more transparent by having the Labour Department reveal the details of the penalties levied and compensation paid to the child workers” said Supreme Court lawyer . Rescued child workers seldom get the compensation or benefits under various schemes they are entitled to and often end up forced into working like bonded labourers due to the same.
Supreme Court lawyer Ravi Kant, also President of NGO Shakti Vahini, which has been actively involved in the rescue of child workers in Delhi and elsewhere, said less than 20 per cent of the rescued children are getting the compensation meant for them.
“The idea behind imposing the Rs.20,000 fine was to make it act as a deterrent, but I do not know how effective it has proved as a tool,” Mr. Kant said.
For the welfare of the children, he said, it is essential that the system is made more transparent by having the Labour Department reveal the details of the penalties levied and compensation paid to the child workers. Mr. Kant said the Supreme Court had also laid down that forced work by children without wages be booked under the Bonded Labour Act. This was also meant to provide the benefits of the Indira Vikas Yojana, to enable one member of the family get a job and enable the family access to ration supply as under the Below Poverty Line category that provides for the cheapest rations.
But even here, the implementation has left a lot to be desired and only a small fraction of the rescued children actually get the benefits of this scheme. A senior Labour Department official agreed that less than 20 per cent of the rescued children get the compensation money in hand. The reasons for this are many. The law as of now prohibits opening of an account in the name of a minor alone and they also cannot be issued debit cards. “While there is no one to ask about the welfare of these children when they are working, once they are rescued their relatives or distant relatives turn up for a slice of the money they are to get. It has also been seen that sometimes the families of these children force them back into the drudgery after getting the compensation amounts. The money lures them.”
The official said the Municipal Corporation of Delhi had in 2008 issued instructions that all rescued child workers would be given admission in the schools all through the year to ensure their proper rehabilitation. “Despite this, most child workers find their way back into the trade they are engaged in due to family pressure.”
The official said the parents are seldom booked for abetting child labour. Though The Children (Pledging of Labour) Act, 1933, provided for imposition of a penalty of Rs.50 on the parents and of Rs.250 on those engaging the parents for the services of their children, this law is seldom used to curb child labour. He said the children who are rescued are produced before the Child Welfare Committee dealing with the respective area. In all, there are four such committees in Delhi. These committees have magisterial powers and they give the custody of the children to the care homes which are being run by various non government organisations.
Children hailing from other States are repatriated to their native place. They are supposed to be paid a part of the Rs.20,000 fine imposed on the employer.