The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bengalís child slave in Delhi
- In search of a voice

New Delhi, June 12: Job profile: working round the clock; no day off, no leave. Pay: Anything from Rs 50 to Rs 300 a month. Perks: Eating with the dog. Age no bar.

Children as young as eight are being forced to slave under such conditions in thousands of homes in Delhi, says a United Nations-backed NGO, Save the Children.

Most of these children are from Bengal.

Kamini Das, who was paid just about Rs 100 a month, ran away from her Delhi employer after three years of beatings. At 16, she was able to find her way back home in Bengal.

Anshuman and Priya, brother and sister, had each other. They, too, managed to escape to their debt-ridden father Haridas who, at the suggestion of another villager, had sent them to Delhi.

Few are as lucky. Working for a pittance, these children ' mostly girls between eight and 15 ' are often forcibly held back by their employers in Delhi when they ask to be allowed to go home.

The study says Bengal has been the largest source of domestic child labourers in Delhi over the past three to four years. Most of the children come from Murshidabad, Jalpaiguri, North 24-Parganas, Midnapore and Nadia.

The NGO argues that the Juvenile Care and Protection Act, 2000, is powerless to deal with the issue, for it has no provisions against either household child labour or migration involving illegal recruitment agencies.

These agencies prey on the parentsí poverty, especially their insecurities once the harvest season is over. Once about every six months, the recruiters arrive in the villages and take away the children to get them work in Calcutta and Delhi.

The study notes some differences in the way the children are treated in different cities. Those employed in Calcutta generally receive three meals a day, roughly of the same quality as that eaten by the rest of the household.

There have, however, been instances in Delhi of child workers being made to eat with pet dogs. In both cities, several girl children have become victims of physical and sexual violence.

18 hurt in rally

At least 18 people, mostly children, suffered burns when hydrogen balloons burst into flames during a candle-light procession to mark the World Day against Child Labour at India Gate this evening.

Most of the children were holding lit candles and some were carrying bunches of balloons. The balloons accidentally touched the flames and burst, spattering burnt rubber on the children and other people nearby.

Some of the children were taken to hospital, where two are under observation. A case of negligence has been lodged against the organisers.

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