“I used to work from 6am in the morning till 11pm at night. We had to work there and sleep inside the company only,” said Praveen.

Child labourer in Mangaluru left at railway station after Coimbatore family complains
news Thursday, June 16, 2016 - 20:38

A 14-year-old boy from Coimbatore, allegedly employed as a child labourer for a year in a Mangaluru sweet factory, was abandoned at Podanur Railway Station after police began an inquiry into his case. Police initiated the inquiry into Muthu Sweets after the boy’s family filed a complaint with the Coimbatore Police Commissioner.

The owner of the company, Lingaraj, is being questioned by the police. Surprisingly, Sub-Inspector Rajapandian, the officer in charge of the case, said, “The boy’s father himself had gone and left the child in the company to work. We are not planning to take any action against the company’s owner. We are just questioning him in the case.” However, the Commissioner said that an inquiry is being carried out, and action would be taken when the inquiry is completed.

Last year, Praveen Kumar, then 13 years old, was sent to work in the sweet-making factory by his father Mandaram. Praveen was employed in packaging sweets at the factory. “We are poor people, my father used to run a business selling old newspapers. We two brothers have been working as masons at construction sites,” said Sudhakar (27), the elder of Praveen’s two brothers.

Six months ago, Mandaram died. “The owner did not even send my brother for the funeral service of our father. He was not allowed to talk to us and when we went to the company, they would tell us he is not there,” said Sudhakar.

He added that whenever the family got a chance to talk to Praveen, he would start crying on the phone and the employers would take the phone away from him.

The family had spoken to him just eight times in the year he was away. Asked about the working conditions, Praveen told The News Minute, “I used to work from 6am in the morning till 11pm at night. We had to work there and sleep inside the company only.” He added, “We were given food regularly.”

Praveen was not even allowed to come home for Sudhakar’s wedding, which took place recently, said Sudhakar.  “We pleaded with the employers to send my brother for the wedding but they did not send him,” he said.

On June 14, frustrated with their inability to meet their brother or talk to him, the family, with the help of a neighbor named Arumugam, filed a petition with the Police Commissioner of Coimbatore. “The police began investigating and, two days later, Praveen was left at the Podanur railway station by the employer,” said Arumugam (65).

He added that Praveen was not paid any salary for the last one year and was not given any money when he was left at the station, either. “Praveen was wearing one set of clothes, that’s all. He was not allowed to take anything else from there,” he said. 

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