Hyderabad: A 13-year-old girl, confined as a domestic worker at an ex-government official’s home, was rescued from Hyderabad on Monday.
While the Telangana Labour Department officials were reportedly busy with May Day celebrations, the local police, child rights activists and Childline staff came together to free the girl from a retired government engineer Bheem Reddy’s home in Vanasthalipuram.
Initially scared, the girl slowly opened up and informed that her parents live in Bijjalapally village of Wanaparthy. They forced her to quit school after class 5 and sent her to work at Mr Reddy’s home as a domestic help. “In exchange, they got Rs 20,000 for a year,” she said.
“I wash clothes and vessels, sweep and mop. Work goes on till 10 in the night,” she told NDTV.
Last week when she had asked for a permission to go home, she was beaten up by Mr Reddy’s wife.
“These are educated people and yet they keep bonded labourers. What’s worse is that the labour department told us they are busy with May Day celebrations and the girl’s rescue operation will have to wait,” child rights activist Achyuta Rao of Balala Hakkula Sangam said.
Police inspector Murali Krishna told NDTV that a case is being booked under the Juvenile Justice Act.
Child rights activists, however, say that the cases must also be booked under the Bonded Labour Act since there is an exchange of a lump sum annual advance payment. Section 340 IPC should also be levied for illegal confinement since she had asked to go home last Sunday but was beaten instead, they said.
“Children working as domestic labourers are the invisible workforce,” said Shanta Sinha, former chairperson of National Commission For Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
“Educated families employ children presuming they are doing them a favour as they get to eat better and also watch television. If they are so kind-hearted, they should instead support the child to stay at home and go to school,” Ms Sinha added.
Manjula has been sent to a rescue home in Hyderabad for now. She told NDTV that she wants to rejoin school and become a doctor in future.
Mr Rao said that going to school is every child’s right. “It is now up to the authorities and civil society to help her get a second chance at fulfilling her dreams,” he said.