If one goes by the findings of the Gurgaon labour department’s anti-child labour drive, then there are only two child labourers in the district. Even after ten days of the 12-day drive, the officials could spot only two child labourers, irrespective of the fact that thousands of child labourers are employed in roadside eateries, condominiums and small-scale industries. The drive, which began on June, concludes on ‘World Day Against Child Labour’ on Tuesday.
The labour department data shows that a similar drive last year had found only six child labourers in the district. According child rights activists, the entire drive is a sham. “This is nothing but an eyewash,” said Rishi Kant of the NGO Shakti Vahini which runs a child helpline (1098 toll free number to report cases of child abuse) in Gurgaon.
“The department has failed to help the poor children who are brought from other states and subjected to labour at homes, factories, restaurants in hostile conditions,” he added. However, the labour department officials are putting up a brave front. According to the officials, six teams have been fanned out across the district to find child labourers.
“Our teams are out on the streets to find child labour,” said JP Mann, deputy labour commissioner, Gurgaon.
Chandan Kumar of Childline India Foundation pointed out that it is not very difficult to find child labourers in the city’s restaurants and other businesses. “The officials never care to go inside the high-rise condominiums where almost each house has a child labour, several of whom are girls.”
Mann, however, said the labour department cannot enter homes unless it has ‘definite leads’. Activists say that most of the children are brought from eastern Indian states of Jharkhand and Odisha. “In most cases, the officials simply hand out a challan to the employer and leave the child there itself. The employer gets away with a minor penalty,” said an activist. However, labour officials denied the charge.