VASUDHA VENUGOPAL [from The Hindu 2.13.2012]
The HinduA child at a brick kiln in Tiruvallur. Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam
Every evening on the Marina, 10-year-old Karunakaran is among the several who urge visitors to buy a packet of pattani sundal. Around 5 p.m., he returns home from school, picks up the basket of 50 sundal packets and rushes to the beach eagerly looking for a ‘certain anna’ who lets him play snake game on his mobile phone. In Pudupet, another boy, Raj, struggles with bolts at an automotive spare-part manufacturing unit. ‘Fifteen’ he says in a seemingly trained way, the moment you ask him anything about his age. Originally from Rajasthan, he really hopes to get out of the unit, and be employed in a house, “like my cousin, a 14-year-old who works in a house in George Town here.”
Anything that interferes with the development of the child – that is the UN definition of Child Labour. And by this standard there are innumerable children in and around the city, employed in various professions, some grappling to come out, and some with no control over the situation.
The Labour Department has been regularly sending teams to industrial units to rescue child labourers but sources feel there is a concerted effort against such drives from employers who often manage to get parents on their side. The mobile education drive started by the department to identify children on the street and take them into fold of education is no longer functional either.