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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Villupuram kids lose childhood in Chennai kitchens

Nov. 27: Preethi (all names changed) got the beating of her life, which is all of six years now, for breaking an egg while fetching the packet from the grocer for her employer in Chennai. She went back to the store sobbing, pleading for a replacement. The kind shopkeeper gave her an egg and dialed 1098 to alert the childline.

“That little girl was brought from Uttar Pradesh to work at the house of a Chennai businessman on a measly salary. She was made to take care of the boss’ baby, clean the house and help the wife in the kitchen,” recalled Dr P. Manorama, chairperson, child welfare committee. After being rescued by the childline, the girl refused to go back to UP and stopped her wailing only after she was assured that she would be brought up in a government home in Chennai and educated.

“She was one among the eight children and was certain that her parents would pack her off to some other distant employer. Now she is attending school here and is happy. We are rescuing at least 50 such kids from various households in Chennai in a month. Most of the employers were educated and well-employed, yet resorted to these cruel practices,” added Dr Manorama.

A childline volunteer recalled the case of Kavitha, 10, who was rescued from a posh house in T’Nagar very recently after neighbours reported that the girl was scavenging the roadside garbage bin for food. “She had jumped the wall to get out to search for food in the garbage. She was hungry and the employers were away on a vacation, leaving the girl and an older servant at home,” the volunteer recalled. “Kavitha’s legs bore bad burn marks as she was made to clean the toilets using acid.”

Childline recently rescued a 12-year-old ‘slave’ from an affluent home in Villivakkam after the girl was badly beaten up for not cooking the rice properly. “She had severe injuries. We found out that she was supplied by an agent who collected a hefty advance from the employer and paid a small portion to the girl’s family in Salem,” said Dr Manorama.

The child trafficking is superbly networked as agents from different parts of the country liaise for fixing the kids in homes and business places after collecting advance sums, from which they pick up handsome cuts. “Villupuram appears to be a hub as many kids have come from there. We rescue the children and send them back to their families but they are sent out again on work, to some other faraway place,” said Dr Manorama, adding that many kids from Tamil Nadu are sent to work in households in Kerala and north India while children from the north are brought to south to slog.

The state does little to help the child slave. “I am not aware of any agent being punished till now, though the Villupuram police are well aware of this trafficking for many years,” said Virgl D Sami, director of the Arunodhaya NGO.


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