Siliguri, Dec. 3: Nearly two months after the implementation of the amended Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation (CLPR) Act 1986 on October 10 this year, Siliguri police today took decisive action for the first time to rid the town of the menace.
The police action was triggered by a group of youths from Matigara who lodged a complaint with the local police about the exploitation of a 10-year-old girl. On the basis of this complaint, the police on Friday arrested Sabita Sarkar, a primary school teacher and a resident of the Shivmandir area, at whose house the girl worked.
The girl, Manjhan Soren, who hails from Gorufuta in Samuktala under Alipurduar subdivision, had been brought to the Sarkar home as a domestic help six months ago by Sabita’s husband Prabhat, who is reportedly an officer in the Sashastra Seema Bal.
“We had received a complaint from the local youths about assault and ill-treatment being heaped on the girl. On inquiry, we found that the girl used to be treated inhumanly by the Sarkar family, especially Sabita. We immediately decided to arrest her on Friday,” officer-in-charge of Matigara police station V.K. Singh told The Telegraph today.
The schoolteacher’s arrest under Section 14 of the CLPR Act is the first such incident in Siliguri after the act’s amendment and implementation this year.
Earlier, under Section III of the act, the term “child labour” meant those below 14 years engaged in any “hazardous profession” like brick kilns, carpet industry, firecrackers industry and ten other professions. The amendment has included children working as household servants and in roadside dhabas, tea-stalls, resorts and hotels.
Singh said Friday’s incident has provided the police the impetus they needed. “From now on, we will be initiating drives without waiting for complaints to be lodged. We will initially target the roadside dhabas and tea stalls in the Matigara area, most of which engage child workers. We will raid these eateries and warn the owners not to keep children as servants. If the warning fails to yield result, we will start booking them,” he said.
Additional superintendent of Siliguri police Biswarup Ghosh said after the Matigara case, the drive would be initiated throughout the city, where NGOs and a section of conscious people would be involved. “If we get specific complaints, we will take action, whoever the guilty might be,” he said.