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Child labourers ploughing minister kin's land, confirms probe panel

December 25, 2007 17:14 IST

The probe panel, constituted by Bihar's National Democratic Alliance government, on Tuesday confirmed that Union Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh's kin had engaged two child labourers for tilling an agricultural land at Shahpur village in Vaishali district on December 9.

The finding dealt a severe blow to Singh's assertion that some TV channels had stage-managed the story.

"A high-level committee headed by the state Labour Commissioner Vimla Nand Jha went to Shahpur village and submitted its report to the state government confirming that the story beamed by TV channels was true," said Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi.

Modi said that the state government had sought the advocate general's opinions for taking action against those involved in violations of labour laws.

Surprisingly, the Deputy Labour Commissioner (Muzaffarpur) S K Rai, who conducted a preliminary investigation into the allegations of child labourers used by Raghuraj Singh, brother of the union minister, had termed the story as "stage-managed and planted".

The high-level panel negated the findings of Rai and stated, "After cross examinations of several villagers and the children whose services were used for tilling, it has been found to be true that Raghuraj Singh had hired the boys and engaged them for tilling".

"This practice has been going on at Shahpur village for a long time as lot of farmers are taking services of child labourers for tilling," the panel said in its report and recommended legal action against those involved in such blatant violation of labour laws.

On December 12, the two young boys had retracted their earlier statement and alleged that stringers of the TV channels had hired them to stage-manage the incident.

On December 9, the two boys were shown being used instead of oxen to plough the field of Raghuraj Singh.

The incident in Shahpur village of Vaishali district had also rocked the state assembly on December 11 amid demands by the ruling NDA members for the resignation of Raghuvansh Prasad Singh.

While seeking to downplay the incident, Singh had said that the incident was "stage-managed".

"The incident beamed on TV channels has been stage-managed. Not politicians but even common people have the right to see their faces on national channels," Singh had sarcastically remarked when approached for his comment.

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