(Image source from: Oneindia.com)
Massive Campaign To Keep Sabarimala Free From Child-Labor:- A comprehensive awareness campaign to curb any form of child labor in the premises of the hillock shrine in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala, is being drawn by the authorities as the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala gears up for another annual pilgrim season.
Even though child labor is banned by law in the area, beside forest fringe pathways during the pilgrim season, the little children, especially from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are seen selling bangles and toys.
A thorough drive, titled “Operation Saranabalyam”, during the three-month-long pilgrim season, is getting ready to be launched by state-run Child Protection Unit (CPU) authorities. The operation is scheduled to start from November 15 this year. As per the authorities, after promising some meager amounts to their parents, these children are brought to Kerala by middle-men, discontinuing schooling in their home states.
In the road side makeshift tents, the children, including girls, are sheltered and during the festival season, they are employed to sell the products to pilgrims since early morning. They said. “They mainly concentrate in areas like Laha, Kanamala, Nilakkal and Pampa. Children in the age group of 3-12 years are mainly employed to sell the articles. The number of girls are also not less,” Neethu Vimal, a CPU official, told a leading news channel.
A sense of sympathy among passers by would naturally be triggered by the scene of a tiny child selling a bangle or toy, and the agents and middle men were trying to exploit this, she said. While few children come along with their distant relatives, and few are brought directly by the agents. She further added that a majority did not have any proper identity card or other documents.
“Though it is not proved, we are getting complaints that these children,sheltered in roadside tents, are even subjected to sexual exploitation by local people. They are not only denied education, but also proper food, shelter and rest,” she said.
The official, detailing their proposed drive, said that with the support of various departments, including police and forest personnel, the surprise inspections would be carried out in the camps. The official added that they have also plans to put up notice boards with anti-child labor messages in key locations, distribute pamphlets in this regard among local people and traders and carry out study classes.