Since her rescue from the rice mill where she worked as a child labourer, Veena along with her siblings are working hard to achieve their dreams.
While working at the rice mill to repay the advance received by her parents, Veena was never paid for her labour. She swept the kalam, helped during the drying process and collected the paddy after it was sun-dried.
“She was not permitted to go to school and had to take care of her younger siblings.
She also had to take care of all the household chores. She really wanted to study. Whatever she did depended on what the owner of the mill let her,” said Loretta Jhona, a social worker with the anti-trafficking organisation, International Justice Mission.
While her story is only one among countless others, activists say that thousands of children are trapped in the bonded labour system, abused and
powerless, and unable to break free. On the occasion of World Day against Child Labour, which is observed today, activists stress on the need for a collaborative support of the government and the community to ensure that these children have a future.
Stating that it is the Revenue Divisional Officers who rescue these children, Zaheeruddin Mohammed, member, Child Welfare Committee, Kancheepuram, said, “They do not produce them before CWC. They only return the children to their villages.
The state has a lot of such cases, especially in Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur and Chennai.”
While section 75 of the Justice Juvenile Act, which deals with cruelty to children, penalises persons found to be abusing children under their care with a fine of Rs 2 lakh and four years imprisonment, it is not implemented as the children are not brought before the CWC, who can ensure that the guilty are charged.
It may be recalled that, in a rescue mission two months ago, the Vellore sub-division Vigilance Committee along with district officials, rescued 21 persons, including 12 children, at a brick kiln in a village near Gudiyattam. “Cases of children residing and working
in brick kilns, rice mills and the like are quite high. Though many rescues are undertaken, not many are reported. Organisations like IJM, along with the State police are involved in several similar rescues,” said an official from the Child Welfare Committee.