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Posted at: Nov 19, 2019, 7:49 AM; last updated: Nov 19, 2019, 7:49 AM (IST)

Child labourer’s death takes ugly turn

Trade unions up in arms, seek contractor’s arrest | Cops use mild force to disperse protesters on Hambran Road
Child labourer’s death takes ugly turn
Workers protest against the boy’s death at the hands of labour contractor on Hambran Road in Ludhiana on Monday. Tribune photo

Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, November 18

The death of a minor boy after being mercilessly thrashed by labour contractor of a plywood factory took an ugly turn, when a group of trade union activists, along with the father and relatives of the deceased, made attempts to hold a protest and block vehicular traffic by keeping the body on the road.

Police intervened to dissuade the protesters from causing obstruction in vehicular traffic and told them to disperse. However, adamant protesters stood their ground, which made the police use mild force to disperse the mob.

ACP (West) Sameer Verma told The Tribune that when the protesters refused to budge and locked the entry gate of the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited on Hambran Road, the police had to use mild force to disperse them. He said a case had been registered under Sections 283/353/186 of the IPC against half a dozen persons, including some trade union leaders for blocking road and obstructing public servants in performing their duty.

The tragic incident has once again brought to fore the menace of widespread child labour in the industrial capital of the state. Despite sustained efforts by the district authorities and several NGOs against child labour, minor boys and girls in hundreds, if not thousands, continue to be hired by hosiery industry and other sectors of small and medium industrial units in the city.

Lovkush (15), son of Jugal Rajwar, a migrant from Thasamnava village in Hussainabad Pulma district of Jharkhand, died after allegedly being beaten up by labour contractor Raghbir Singh. The police have booked the contractor under Section 304 of the IPC and Sections 75/79 of the Juvenile Justice Act but no arrest has been made so far.

In a complaint lodged with police, Jugal, father of the deceased boy, said his son had called him from the contractor’s mobile phone 4-5 days ago and told that he was admitted to the PGIMER in Chandigarh after being beaten up by the contractor. The father said he reached Ludhiana with some of his relatives on November 15 and told the contractor to take them to the injured boy.

“After dilly-dallying for some time, Raghbir told me that the boy had died during treatment at PGI. When we asked him about the body, the contractor again started making excuses. On making further enquiries, we learnt that the boy was thrashed over some issue on November 7 by Raghbir and had died in the course of treatment,” the complainant said.

Trader unions up in arms

The incident of the child worker dying after brutal beating by the contractor has evoked angry protest among the trade unions, who alleged that the administration was hand in glove with the employers who illegally engage child workers on low wages to cut cost of production.

Rajwinder, president of Textile Hosiery Kamgar Union and Sukhdev Singh Bhoondri, president, Pendu Mazdoor Union (Mashal), who were at the Civil Hospital, Ludhiana, when the postmortem of the deceased boy was being conducted, demanded immediate arrest of the labour contractor and addition of Section 302 of the IPC in the FIR registered in this case. They said labour and trade unions would be forced to launch an agitation if suitable compensation was not granted to the boy’s family and culprit was not arrested without any delay.

Nine minors rescued, all from Saharanpur

Ludhiana: Meanwhile, nine children, aged between 10 and 15 years, belonging to one particular community, were today rescued from a garment manufacturing unit at Manna Singh Nagar near Chawni Mohalla. These minor children were working in the factory for the past two months, when few acquaintances brought them from Saharanpur on the pretext of getting good work. Dinesh Kumar, Assistant Project Officer, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, said no rule of minimum wages was followed by the employer and all these children were meagerly paid between Rs 200 and 500 per week. “They said some near and dear ones brought them here. In Ludhiana, garment and bicycle industries are the main units, which employ maximum child labour, which is unlawful. They were rescued and as per law, sent for other formalities,” Dinesh said. The children were handed over to the Child Welfare Committee and later sent to State Aftercare Home. Today’s raid was conducted under the leadership of Anudeep Sharma. Since 2012, over 850 children, employed as labourers, have been rescued by the authorities so far. These children, mostly minors, work as labourers in factories, dhabas, homes and tea-stalls among other places. — TNS

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