By Shubhankar Chakravorty
BANGALORE (Feb. 2)—Bangalore has emerged as the leading center of child employment in India as programs like Action Plan for Eliminating Child Labor and State Child Labor Project (SCLP) have largely failed in combating the menace.
“The government approach is that they are looking at children in isolation—that never works,” said P. Lakshapathy, executive director of the Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA), a community development organization. “They have to look at the child as a part of the family, and if the family is contributing to the child labor, then what are the issues that can be resolved to relieve the child from working?”
The SCLP, which was launched by the Karnataka government and implemented by the state’s Labor Department in 2001 and provides for up to six years of residential education for rescued child laborers, was thought to be one of the most modern programs.
It was considered even more effective in controlling child labor than the National Child Labor Project, launched in 1995, that only provided for day schooling.
The programs did ensure that proper rolls were taken at schools, but the attendance of the students in classrooms hardly improved as they continued to work.
State government denies problem
The state government maintains the programs are achieving their goals.
J.T. Jinkalappa, joint labor commissioner, told The SoftCopy: “Child laborers get rescued round the year, and they get rehabilitated.”
On the failure of law enforcement agencies and dedicated programs to reduce child labor, Jinkalappa said, “Every man and women is an inspector, and they are expected to report any case of child employment and rescue the kid.”
“A singular effort is still not being made involving the state government, the labor department and NGOs together, wherein the child will be given the first and the maximum importance to protect them from forces preventing them from entering the main stream,” said Fr. George P. S., executive director of Bangalore Ontyavara Seva Coota, an NGO working with at-risk children.
After the joint legislation of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Labor Organization accorded rights and protections to children below the age of 18, the Indian government came up with laws prohibiting child employment.
However, two separate conventions drawn up by the ILO are contradictory: Convention No. 182 prohibits child employment till the age of 18 whereas Convention No. 138 specifies the minimum age of employment as being 15 years.
Such contradictions along with financial constraints and poor provision of resources have further worsened child labor control in India, making the manifold programs largely a failure.
Nandini, 12, a rescued child laborer who started working as a housemaid at the age of 10, is now studying at APSA’s training center and aspires to become a doctor.
Santosh, 15, used to work as a mechanic and is now studying in seventh grade. He wants to be a police officer when he grows up.
But Nandini and Santosh are just a few out of several thousand children who wait to be rescued and rehabilitated—a process that is taking too long.
(Published in The SoftCopy)