Bangalore: Sunita (name changed) from Allahabad, who was working as a domestic help in Bangalore, ran away from the house unable to bear the physical and psychological abuse she was being subjected to by the couple who had employed her.
The 13-year-old, who took shelter in a dhaba, was rescued and brought before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC). An FIR was registered at the K.R. Puram police station on April 4, 2005.
One year and nine months down the line, the case is still pending before the court. The accused, in the meanwhile, have left the city. The girl, who had waited for over a year in the city in the hope of justice and monetary compensation, began to get impatient and wanted to go back to her parents. CWC members had to put together some money and send her to Allahabad.
Karnataka prides itself in initiating action against those employing children aged below 14 ahead of the Central Government directive banning it came to force on October 10 last.
The Labour Department, which was till then booking cases under the Minimum Wages Act (1948) stepped up raids and rescue of child labourers after the law was passed. But what has been happening to the children after the rescue is another story, as Sunita 's case testifies.
Thanks to delay in police investigation and court procedure, the lives of many abused children hang in the balance.CWC has written a letter (dated January 4, 2007) to the Additional Director-General of Police (Training) seeking to know the status of the case of Sunita and 18 other children that had come up before CWC and in which FIRs have been filed.
This will help CWC "make a rehabilitation plan for each of the children concerned and ensure they get speedy justice," the letter says.
Sheela Devaraj of Association for Promotion of Social Action (APSA), a member of CWC, points out that there is delay in the preliminary investigation and framing of charge sheets even in cases where there is clear violation of basic rights and obvious proof of physical abuse.
Laws can be effective only when there are convictions that act as a deterrent, says Nina C. Naik, chairperson of CWC.
D.V. Guruprasad, ADGP, Training, says that he has sought a report on the status of the 19 cases from Bangalore City Police Commissioner Neelam Achutha Rao. He is yet to get a reply.
Mr. Guruprasad adds that as an officer "personally interested" in issues of women and child welfare, he is making an effort to speed up the process of police investigations although the cases pending before courts are beyond his purview.