Child labour mafia thrives in Sabarimala temple
- Children were employed in stalls and shops in the areas adjacent to Hill Shrine
- They were staying with adults in pitiable conditions
- DCPU doubts that there are agencies supplying children from other states
As the pilgrimage season in Sabarimala peaks, child labour is becoming rampant at temporary stalls and commercial establishments in and around the hill abode. It is suspected that an inter-state racket might be supplying children to the shops in Sabarimala.
District Child Protection Unit (DCPU) rescued 12 kids from shops in Sabarimala, during a surprise raid held as part of 'Operation Sarana Balyam.' The children belonged to Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, and a few of them were sent back to their native places after tracing out their parents.
Six children were rescued from Nilakkal, Pampa, Kanamala and Laha, places adjacent to the hill shrine. Of the kids rescued three were school going. "The children were brought from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and were made to reside in pitiable conditions. They were staying with adults at rooms in Kanamala and Laha," DCP officer A O Abeen said.
The officials suspect that there are agents who provide children to shop owners. "The same couple appeared before us, pretending as parents of different kids and we doubt there are agents supplying children from neighbouring states," Abeen said.
Labour Department has deployed special squads in Sabarimala during Mandalam-makaravlakku season to ensure strict enforcement of labour laws. A spot fine of ₹25,000 would be imposed on shop owners who are found to have employed children below 14 years of age. They are also likely to attract three to five years of imprisonment if the offence is proved. Contractors and shop owners are employing children from other states under the guise of the licence obtained for appointing labourers from outside the state.
The shop owners are exploiting the lack of awareness among workers from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. DCPU is planning to put up boards in multiple languages in the peripheries to create awareness among people from other states.