Child labour flourishes in Manipur despite ban

Imphal (Manipur), Feb.8 (ANI): Child labour continues to flourish in Manipur inspite of it being banned by the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986.

Manipur employs over 1200 children under the age of 14 as labourers.

In Imphal, children work as vendors at traffic intersections and in eateries.

The prospect of cheap labour makes such children lucrative for establishment owners, who then set them to doing strenuous and often hazardous work.

Selling balloons at a roadside in Imphal, Mohammad Shakil, 11, hails from Bihar. He does not go to school as poverty deprives him of such an opportunity.

"We are poor and homeless, that is why we have to work. I used to go to school, but not any more. My parents are poor and they cannot afford it," said Shakil.

A fellow seller of balloons, Ali, said: "I go to school, but our expenses are very high and my father has back home, so I am forced to work."

A law prohibiting the employment of children in homes and in the hospitality industry came into effect in October 2006.

The law-where violators face a jail term of up to two years and a maximum fine of 20,000 rupees-is an extension of a previous 1986 ban prohibiting children from working jobs deemed too "hazardous" for minors such as in factories and mines.

Authorities in Imphal, however, claim that the number of child labourers has gone down in recent years. A state labour department report says that in the 2001, the state had over 2,800 child labourers, a number that has gone down to less than half in the present day.

"In 2009-10, the National Sample Survey Organisation undertook a survey. According to their data, there were only 1200 plus child labourers in Manipur. The number of child labourers in Manipur decreased. I think that this is the result of our campaign against employment of child labour in Manipur," said Imphal's Deputy Labour Commissioner, E. Tomba Singh.

Singh added that his department would undertake a thorough survey that would also investigate households to find out if they employed children as domestic helps.

Child rights campaigners say like the previous ban in 1986, the 2006 law has never been properly implemented or enforced.

Children working in lower-end restaurants and highway food stalls are a common sight in many parts of India, and many urban middle-class households hire young boys and girls from poor families as servants.

The Indian Government says 126,321 trafficked children were rescued from domestic work in 2011/12, a rise of almost 27 percent from the previous year, as Millions of children in India continue to be driven into labour by poverty. (ANI)

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