Innocence lost too early

Innocence lost too early

World Anti-Child Labour Day

According to government figures there are only 12.9 million children in the country who work as child labour but agencies working in the sector share different statistics.

According to one, there are nearly 40 million children working in different sectors across India.

While some NGOs are documenting and highlighting the cause of child labour, there are a few who have taken on the task of rehabilitating these children. Plan India, for inst­a­n­ce, is working to improve the lives of disadvantaged kids through an approach wh­ich puts these young lives at the center of their community development progra­m­me.

Randhir Paswan, facilitator of child labour project in the NGO, says, “We have nearly 300 children who have left menial jobs of working in godowns or sorting out waste to enroll themselves in education. We have a very different way of
luring children.

First, we enrol them in extra-curricular activities like painting, drawing and enter their works in competition to keep their interest alive and then gradually teach them etiquettes and language. We do have problems but things shape up eventually.” And the effort shows up in success stories like that of the 13-year old Anu Mandal* who aspires to be a teacher now. 
Metrolife spoke to Anu, about her journey so far: “I am from Kolkata and came to Delhi for work. I used to work in a godown to sort out disposals. But now it has been almost five years that I have left that work and am concentrating on studies.” How has life changed for her? “I am more clean now, get to eat good food and speak properly too. I wish others like me also get to lead a better life and leave their jobs in godowns and dhabas,” says Anu.

Mumtaz Ahmed*, another girl who helps the NGO identify children for reformation enjoys the challenges this work brings. “When I go and ask their parents to send their wards to centres or schools, they ask me, ‘who will work and earn money for our survival?’ My job is to try and make them understand that the benefits of education far exceed earning some money at this age.”

But the picture is not always rosy. Poverty and lack of social security are the main causes of child labour. The increasing gap between the rich and the poor, privatisation of basic services and economic policies are putting major sections of population out of employment. Lack of quality education has also contributed to children dropping out of school and entering the labour force.

Laws that are meant to protect children from hazardous labour are ineffective and not implemented correctly. “Most of these agencies (which offer domestic helps) are illegally run in the name of NGOs.

There is no regulation and the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 is of no use now and the proposal for its amendment is still pending in the Parliament,” says Kailash Satyarthi, founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan. Does anyone care?
*names changed on request