221 children trafficked in a year
CHENNAI: Trafficking in children from Tamil Nadu is regular. They are taken primarily to Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh and made to work in trying circumstances.
The children work in sweet stalls, bakeries and prawn and the fish processing industry, as help in hotels and labourers in homes, according to a 2006 study, conducted among children rescued at various exits (primarily different railway stations). The children are also involved in bangle and carpet making units, employed in rubber estates and tapioca farms in various parts of the country.
Executed by two NGOs Saaral-CSHD and Nessakkaram SEEDS, which work among children to prevent abuse, the study observed that a total of 221 children were taken for labour between February and December 2006 and 167 had run away from home to cities, mainly Chennai and Mumbai.
During interactions with the children, it was clear that they had no clue where they are going to be taken for employment. There were also cases where girls forced into labour have run away from their work place due to exacting conditions and landed up at railway stations, hoping to travel home `ticket less.'
The study revealed that trafficking in children took place from 16 districts, with Villupuram, Vellore, Salem, Dharmapuri, Ramanathapuram and Sivaganga contributing the maximum numbers. There were a number of parents from Kalidaikurichi in Villupuram district who complained to the study team about children who went missing after agents paid paltry sums and took them away on the pretext of finding them work.
Three villages in Madurai had sent over 10 per cent of their boys out of home to work and in one village, Pudhur, 15 per cent of the boys and 5 per cent of girls were outside home, sold to a broker. The parents attributed their decision to extreme poverty, lack of rain, inadequate water resources and the lack of cultivable land. With jobs dwindling, there is no income available locally and families send children out to earn for them. The children are in the age group 12-18 years.
"We believe that the study has revealed only the tip of the iceberg. The real intensity and magnitude of the problem is likely to be disastrous," days George Heston, director, Saaral -CSHD