Child welfare committee to be established in Tirupur

To prevent trafficking and exploitation of children

Panel will have a chairperson and four members, To be selected from social workers in district.

Tirupur: The Department of Social Defence is to set up a child welfare committee in the district to ensure protection and development of children from ‘significant harm’ through institutional and out-reach programmes.

Official sources told The Hindu that the Committee, comprising Chairperson and four members, would be constituted under the provisions of Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act, 2000, and its amended Act 2006 and Rules thereof.

The main role of the panel would be to tackle child trafficking and exploitation of children in the flesh trade.

The chairperson and members of the said Committee would be selected from among the social workers residing in the district.

To be selected, applicants should be actively involved in health education or welfare activities pertaining to children for at least seven years and holders of Bachelors degree from a recognized University.

“Preference will be given to people who have completed undergraduate degrees in subjects such as criminology, psychology, sociology, social work, economics, home science, education, political science, law, medicine and studies related to women and rural development,” sources said. The upper and lower age limit for selection had been fixed at 65 and 35 years.

The applications should be sent as soon as possible to the Directorate of Social Defence, 300, Purasawalkam High Road, Kellys, Chennai-10.

More details on the selection of candidates could also be obtained from the office of District Social Welfare Officer at Tirupur Collectorate (Telephone: 94430-43409).

R. Vimal Kumar – From THE HINDU

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It’s easy to buy babies at TN’s govt hospitals

About 18 months ago, doctors told Maruthayi, 39, (name changed) that she would not be able to deliver a baby. Today, she dotes on an 11-month-old boy, buying him clothes and toys and taking him to the doctor for his shots. She can’t imagine a life without him.

Maruthayi told The Times of India that she “purchased” the baby from a Kilpauk Medical College (KMC) hospital administrator but refused to divulge the amount she had paid. “I paid him in thousands. The biological mother would have got most of it,” she said.

Eight months ago, a TOI team went undercover and met the administrator who said he could find a baby for a “potential buyer”. In April, he was caught on camera saying he had found a woman who was due for delivery at the hospital in two months: “I know your number. I will call you after she has the delivery… negotiations will begin after that.” On Monday, in a telephonic conversation, he promised to close the deal by next week. The conversation has been recorded.

CHENNAI: Even as the Tamil Nadu police are currently working to unravel a child trafficking network spread across the state, it continues to be possible to buy a baby in Chennai. In fact, it would not be difficult to just walk in and steal one. And it’s not just at KMC that the task is so easy, government hospitals across the state have become the source for baby traffickers.

Ironically, almost every senior official, including Additional Director General of Police Archana Ramasundram and health secretary VK Subburaj, agree. Only two days ago, a woman lost her new-born at the Rajaji Medical College Hospital in Madurai. “Police traced the child and restored it to the parents,” says Subburaj.

Nearly 70% of all deliveries in the state take place at government hospitals, and most babies that are trafficked are from these hospitals. The cost of a baby ranges from Rs 10,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh. “Entry to government hospitals is not restricted, so security is a cause for concern. Government hospitals have no strict visiting hours. The campuses are huge. We need to evolve strategies to beef up security,” says ADGP Archana Ramasundram.

The hospitals also face the problem of corrupt grade-IV staff. “The staff demand money for every service, including getting x-rays and cleaning the woman in labour. They hit my daughter on her thighs while she was in labour. We were forced to give them money,” says Muthulakshmi, whose daughter was admitted to the Woman and Children Hospital in Chennai.

In almost every government hospital, staff are aware of brokers who actively participate in child trafficking. While some babies are abandoned or sold by poor parents, others are stolen.

From TOI

Statewide child trafficking ring busted, 4 held

CHENNAI: In a new twist to a child kidnapping racket busted recently, the Chennai suburban police on Saturday night arrested four women, who were part of the trafficking network and worked for a city-based fertility clinic, indicating the statewide ramifications of the case.

The women, including two ‘ayahs’ working in the hospital, are said to have identified buyers among patients who came to the clinic for treatment. While Nancy and Asha looked after the stolen babies, Kavitha, 33, and Andal, 47, identified a potential buyer for one of the babies.

The development adds another dimension to the child trafficking network, the second big one in recent times to be unearthed by the state police. In 2005, police had cracked an adoption racket involving an agency that sourced kidnapped babies and gave them away in adoption to couples abroad. CBI is still investigating the case. Police suspect that the latest case, involving a gang operating across TN, may have links to networks in other states as well.

Police confirmed that Saturday’s arrests were part of the child abduction racket that came to light when Krishnagiri police arrested seven members of a gang, most of them operating in Chennai and its suburbs. Deputy commissioner of police (Madhavaram), Annie Vijaya, told TOI, “The arrests are a continuation of the child trafficking racked busted in Krishnagiri (in May). We have been exchanging information with the Krishnagiri police and following up leads.”

It was in May that police first arrested several members of a gang and rescued nine babies from them. During interrogation of an accused, Dhanalakshmi, police found that several woman, posing as social workers, and a church priest, father Alphonse, believed to be the kingpin in the racket, were involved in an inter-state racket of stealing and selling babies to childless couples for price ranging from Rs 50,000 to a couple of lakhs of rupees. Those arrested included a woman, M Lalitha, a self-proclaimed social worker, running an orphanage in Puducherry. The woman used the unlicensed orphanage she ran to source babies and sell them to childless couples.

The alleged brain behind the four women arrested on Saturday, Jayaprasad, was picked up in Krishnagiri. Police also rescued two babies from the gang — an eight-month-old girl and a one-year-old baby boy. The children have been handed over to authorities of a government home.

From TOI

Awareness rally taken out against child labour

Prizes distributed to toppers from special schools

TIRUCHI: An awareness rally against child labour was taken out in the city on Thursday in connection with the Child Labour Elimination Day.

About 500 students drawn from child labour special schools, E. R. Higher Secondary School, National College Higher Secondary School, Bishop Heber Higher Secondary School, Teppakulam and Savithri Vidyasala Girls Higher Secondary School marched in the rally carrying placards and raising slogans against the social evil of child labour. The rally was organised under the auspices of the Child Labour Elimination and Effective Rehabilitation Society (CHEERS).

V. Dakshinamurthy, Collector (in-charge), flagged off the rally from the E. R. Higher Secondary School campus after administering a pledge to the participants and the audience to eliminate child labour. He also distributed prizes to Plus Two and SSLC toppers from child labour special schools and winners of various competitions organised for students of these special schools in the district.

S. Sujatha, Mayor, D. Sankari, Joint Commissioner, Labour Welfare Department, C. Somburajan, Deputy Commissioner, Labour Welfare, L. Augustin Peter Fathima, Additional Chief Educational Officer, Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, P. Manju, Project Officer, CHEERS, T. M. Srinivasan, Correspondent, E. R. Higher Secondary School, and other officials participated.

School rally

Students of the All Saints Higher Secondary School, Puthur, too took out an anti-child labour rally in the city. The students marched through various parts of Puthur before returning to the school campus. Meera Pandian, school correspondent, and others participated in the flag off ceremony.

From THE HINDU

Child marriages continue in Kodakarai

KODAKARAI (KRISHNAGIRI): Awareness programmes and action against the perpetrators have not been able to put an end to child marriage in Kodakarai, a village situated on a hill in Denkanikottai taluk.

“Girl students are prevented from going to school on attaining puberty and marriage is conducted. This is our tradition,” says Rudrappa, village elder.

“We couldn’t give education to girls due to various factors. Girl students can study up to Std. V in Panchayat Union primary school in Kodakarai. To continue their study, they have to walk 9 km to catch a bus to either Denkanikottai or Pettamukilalam,” he says.

Due to lack of proper road, there is no transport facility to the village. “We have urged the government to upgrade the present school to at least middle school so that the girl students can study up to Std VIII,” he says.

Recently, three child marriages were stopped by Collector V.K. Shanmugam. However, his efforts proved futile as the villagers solemnized the weddings at a later date secretly.

As per a recent survey, there are 372 children in the age group of six to 14 in the village. Of this, 285 were admitted in the school. After some time, 24 children dropped out.

To encourage parents send children to school, two residential schools were started under the Sarva Siksha Abiyan in the village. Of this, one functioning in the Irular Colony has 50 students. Nirmala, a Plus Two student from the Irular community, is in charge of the school.

The other school run by Siddaraman is facing problems.

It is alleged that the funds for the school have not been allotted for the past three months.

Records reveal that one child out of three families of Backward Class communities is studying in the schools whereas among Irulars, it is two children from two families. It shows that awareness about education is better among the Irulars than BC communities in the village.

R. Arivanantham From THE HINDU

Unicef: Reducing Child Marriage in India

UNICEF just published a success story on female education in India, and it’s inspiring. It profiles thirteen-year-old Arfa Khatun, who refused when her parents tried to commit her to marriage, and her parents accepted that refusal. That’s pretty amazing, especially in West Bengal, where almost half of marriages involve girls under 18.

Arfa Khatun was a student at a government-run school that was part of a UNICEF program that educates students about their rights, builds leadership and communication skills, and teaches problem-solving. The school program is intended to improve the lives of child laborers. As far as I can tell, preventing child marriage is an excellent unintended consequence.

For an against child marriage to work, you need to reach parents as well as children. There is no point in getting students excited about opportunities their parents will not allow them to have. In the case of Arfa Khatun, her father didn’t initially accept her decision. It took the pleas of her teachers and schoolmates to convince her father to let her stay unmarried, but he did relent.

It is a success that Arfa Khatun decided to refuse a child marriage, and it’s a success that her parents could be convinced to let that refusal stand. But thirteen-year-old girls shouldn’t have to defend themselves from marriage. Any school programs need to be part of a larger effort to prevent child marriage; Arfa Khatun shouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place. Efforts like this are a good beginning, but they’re not the whole solution. 

From UnDispatch

UNICEF: Indian girls fight back against child marriage

KOLKATA, India, Nov 19 (Reuters Life!) – Fourteen-year-old Ahalya Kumar lives on a single daily meal of starched rice and has never been to the movies, but the girl from a dirt-poor Indian village packed enough power to reject her arranged marriage in June.

One of four children in a family that earns a pittance rolling bidis, or cheap handrolled Indian cigarettes, her elder sister was married off young and forced to bear children before she turned 18, the legal Indian marrying age.

But when it was Ahalya’s turn, she said “no” after hearing about a 13-year-old girl from the same area who had shot to national fame by stopping her marriage.

“I want to be educated first and live healthy. Marriage can wait until I am 19,” she said.

In Oldih village of Purulia, one of the poorest areas in the eastern state of West Bengal, about 300 km (190 miles) from the bright lights of the state capital Kolkata, Ahalya had to fight poverty and parental pressure to stand up for herself.

But times are slowly changing. The government supported by aid agencies is setting up schools for child labourers to make them aware of their rights to break a rife but outlawed custom.

“Girls are gradually saying ‘no’ to child marriage,” said Anil Gulati, a spokesman for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which works with authorities to fight child marriage.

Gulati said girls have become bolder by encouraging each other and getting media publicity for their refusal.

“This has a slowly growing momentum which will take some time, but it will have a lot of value.”

Impoverished families often use early marriage to get rid of the financial burden of a daughter, and the law can be slow to react. Ahalya’s father, Nimai, repented his decision.

“I was making a mistake. I now want my daughter to study further and then get married when she attains the right age.”

MESSENGERS OF CHANGE

Ahalya’s inspiration was a girl called Rekha Kalindi. Though Kalindi still lives in a mud hut in Purulia, she became a celebrity when she resisted early wedlock and was congratulated on her courage by India’s president.

“The president was very happy to know that these girls are revolting and she encouraged them a lot,” said Prosenjit Kundu, a government official working with girls in Purulia who accompanied them to the meeting in India’s capital.

“She said these girls are messengers of change.”

Kalindi chose not to be one of the many child brides in India’s 1.1 billion-plus population destined for early wedlock.

Though the numbers are falling, India’s latest nationwide health survey said nearly half of women aged 20-24 years were married before they turned 18 and more than a fifth wed before they turned 16. Some 3 percent married before they turned 13.

Parents sometimes use force to make their girls marry, and early motherhood can also prove fatal.

“In some cases, when the girls revolted the parents stopped giving food to the girls,” Kundu said. “These girls don’t have enough to eat and are all child labourers. But their strength to resist child marriage amazes us.”

SORRY FIGURES

Child brides often do not use contraceptives, and face high fertility rates, unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

Some join the roughly 78,000 Indian mothers who, according to a 2009 UNICEF report, die every year in childbirth and from pregnancy complications.

The high mortality rate, which lags far behind India’s Millenium Development Goals and rival China, is another sign of how often rural women have been excluded from a recent economic boom that lifted millions of others out of poverty.

One state where child marriage is widespread and socially acceptable is Rajasthan, whose desert safaris and ornate palaces make it a magnet for foreign tourists.

But village women workers have long fought against the practice, braving violent resistance and even rape to do so.

“Only recently the child marriage of a girl called Babloo was stopped in Jodhpur region by these village social workers after her parents were convinced,” said Anuradha Maharishi, a UNICEF official working in the state.

Babloo could signal a gradual trend, as across India early marriages are slowly in decline. The same government survey said 44.5 percent of women aged 20-24 married before the legal age in 2005-6, down from 54.2 percent in 1992-93.

“I think there’ll be a positive reaction,” Kundu said about Indian society’s view of girls fighting back.

“If the girls in other districts know girls from their age and their poor backgrounds are saying ‘no’ to marriage, they will also come out and speak their minds.”

From Reuters