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                                                                                                                                                      Dr. K. Parameswaran*

Thirteen year old Sivakami is a pleasant, pony tailed girl whom I see every day. She is the culinary assistant and assistant waiter at the small mess where I have breakfast and meals on a regular basis. Besides being cheap, the food one gets in such messes that can be seen all over Tamilnadu is of excellent quality.

However, the quality and low expense comes up with a specific price tag. The mess depends mainly upon labour of Sivakami as well as her elder brother Sivanesan, who is studying for his Plus 2. the only silver lining is that both Sivanesan as well as Sivakami have been allowed to continue with their studies.

But this is not the case for many others. The Planning Commission’s report on Child labour says that according to the 2001 Census there are 1.26 crores economically active children in the age-group of 5-14 years. Among the states, Uttar Pradesh accounts for a larger share of close to one fourth of all child labour in India followed by Andhra Pradesh.

Maharastra and West Bengal respectively garnered nine and eight percent of India’s child employment. The share of Uttar Pradesh has dramatically shot up in the last one decade from less than 13 per cent in the mid-1990s to close to 23 per cent in 2004-05, which is a cause for concern. On the other hand, the share of Andhra Pradesh seems to have declined quite considerably during this period.

Though there are clear provisions in our Constitution to safeguard the interest of children by ensuring that they receive education and are not forced to work for a living, it is unfortunate that the problem of child labour exists to a large extent in our country. In fact, child labour is the result of various ills in the society. Poverty and illiteracy are two such manifestations, which are visible but there are many other factors inbuilt in our society, like the position of women in the family, traditional and cultural practices and feudal attitudes in the country, perpetuating this problem.
The Global Picture

The most recent estimates suggest 127 million boys and 88 million girls are involved in child labour with 74 million boys and 41 million girls in the worst forms.

National laws or regulations in countries differ from one to another. Some countries may permit the employment of 13-15 year olds in light work which is neither prejudicial to school attendance, nor harmful to a child’s health or development. In yet other countries children in the ages 12-14 can apply for light work. Still other countries prescribe a minimum age of 14 for becoming employed.

India’s Latest Approach to Child Labour: 12th Plan

The strategy for dealing with Child Labour during the 12th Five Year Plan Period has been formulated based on the suggestions given by the members of the working group in the two meetings conducted on 27th May and 8th July 2011 The broad highlights of the suggestions are:

· The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act should be strengthened and amended.

· The problems of working children of the migratory families should be addressed. Child labour survey should specifically capture migration of children. Residential schools should be opened in each Metro and Mega cities and also in every district.

· It is important to run residential schools for rehabilitation of child labour.

· The NCLP (National Child Labour Project) Scheme should expand further to a large geographical coverage.

· Emphasis should be given to the monitoring and tracking of NCLP school children.

· The convergence approach should be followed to enhance social protection and welfare measures for working children.

· The NCLP Scheme should be realigned in the light of Right to Education Act 2009. The teachers of the NCLP Special schools should be properly trained.

· Three tier Monitoring Committee at the District, State and National level should be made for effective implementation and monitoring of the NCLP Scheme.

The NCLP Scheme

The NCLP Scheme (National Child Labour Project), which began with a modest number of only 12 districts, has been progressively extended to various parts of the country with the coverage of 271 districts in 21 States of the country. It is functioning in 18 districts of Tamilnadu also.

There have been demands from various States for expanding the coverage of NCLP Scheme to more districts, there is, therefore, a need to expand the Scheme in all the 600 districts in the country.
Right to Education

India’s landmark Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) has been hailed universally as an essential foundation to ensure that all children are in school and out of child labour. Education for all was unanimously agreed as a target towards reaching the goal of elimination of child labour, in addition to scaling up efforts through poverty reduction, social protection and building political commitment to tackling child labour.

The 12th Plan Proposal of the Planning Commission calls for an effective alignment of the NCLP Scheme with the provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE Act, 2009). Accordingly, the NCLP Schools will serve as Special Training Centre for un-enrolled and out-of-school children in accordance with the provisions of Section 4 of the RTE Act and Rule 5 of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Rules, 2010. For this purpose, all such children will be admitted to a neighborhood school of the State Government/local authority. After such admission, the children will undergo the special training for being mainstreamed into the regular school in an age appropriate class.

World Day Against Child Labour 2012

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is commemorating World Day Against Child Labour here on 12 June, 2012. The theme for this year is- “JUSTICE FOR CHILDREN – END CHILD LABOUR”. The aim of commemorating this day is to highlight the need to protect the rights of the child and eliminate child labour and other violations of fundamental rights of children, in all forms.

The World Day Against Child Labour was launched by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2002 to generate awareness about the practice of child labour in different sectors. ILO estimates that there are 21.8 crore child labourers worldwide. The Government of India’s 2001 census estimated that 1.27 crore are involved in child labour. This means that about 3.6% of the total labour force in India is constituted by children! By entering the labour market prematurely, they are deprived of education and training that can help to lift them, their families and communities out of a cycle of poverty. As child labouers they are exposed to physical, psychological or moral suffering that can cause long term damage to their lives.

This year the World Day Against Child Labour will provide a spotlight on the right of all children to be protected from child labour and from other violations of fundamental human rights. In 2010 the international community adopted a Roadmap for achieving elimination of the worst forms of Child labour by 2016. This document stressed that child labour is an impediment to children’s rights and a barrier to development. World Day Against Child Labour 2012 will highlight the work that needs to be done to make the roadmap a reality. (PIB Feature.)

June 12 is World Day Against Child Labour.

*Assistant Director, PIB, Madurai.


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