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Making India Child Labour Free

A comprehensive plan for legislative, policy and programme action to eradicate child labour and towards implementation of Right to Education

In his inaugural address as the Chief Guest of National Consultation Justice Mr M K Sarma, former judge Supreme Court of India quoting Swami Vivekananda said, “Arise, Awake and Stop not till the goal is reached. And the goal is not only to make a Child Labour Abolition Act, but to abolish all forms of child labour and its causes, and ensure education for all children.” For right to education to be successful, child labour must be completely eradicated, and all stakeholders must work together to make this possible.12 May 2012, New Delhi: Following the clarion call by the Minister of Labour and Employment Shri. Mallikarjun Kharge towards a complete abolition of child labour through a Child Labour Abolition Act, the National Consultation – Child Labour Free India by Global March Against Child Labour and Bachpan Bachao Andolan, culminated with a comprehensive plan for legislative, policy and programme action to eradicate child labour and ensure the implementation of the Right to Education Act.  The minister was also presented a children’s charter that was drafted by the child participants, highlighting their key concerns and demands for the complete abolition of child labour.

“Urgency in the key word. Adults can wait our time has passed, but children who’s time is here and now and in the future, can not wait,” was call from Mr Kailash Satyarthi, Chairperson, Global March Against Child Labour and founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan.

The consutlation was attended by over 60 non-government organisations from 13 states of India.

Rajkumari and Manan used to work in the mica mines of Jharkhand; Imtiaz, used to work in zari sweatshops; Razia stitched footballs day in and out; Amar lal was a bonded labourer in the construction site, Devli was bonded along with her parents and grandparents in the stone quarries, Vijay a child labourer in the agriculture shared their stories of hardship and of aspiration and hope at the 2-day consultation.

Ms Tine Staermose, Director, ILO Sub-regional Office in New Delhi referring to Global Report of 2010 the expressed concern on efforts to eliminate child labour has flagged down in light of the global downturn and that there is a need for a reinvigorated worldwide campaign against child labour. Referring to the Roadmap for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour by 2016 accepted by acclaimation during the Global Child Labour Conference in 2010, she said, “progress has to be accelerate to achieve the goals, especially in light the economic downturn and the flagging interest in child labour. The new ILO’s Global Report on Child Labour will focus on economic vulnerability, social protection and child labour.”

Mr Ravi Wig, Chairman, Council of Indian Employers strongly emphasised that child labour is slavery. “Historically there is no mention of child labour or slavery in India, so where did this come from? Industrial revolution created child labour. And our labour laws more geared towards policing and checking have not been able to stop child labour. We need to sensitise the country on child labour and create awareness on the government policies and schemes for social protection and ensure an end to child labour.”

Mr U Saratchandran, Member Secretary of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), “If children are denied of their childhood, to educate themselves, to participate in the development process of the nation, we can not progress as a country.”

This National Consultation also observes the second anniversary of the International Child Labour Conference held at The Hague where Roadmap 2016 for elimination of worst forms of child labour was acclaimed. The parallel sessions saw a rich participation of government, trade union, teachers and civil society organisation representatives. Mr Vyasji, Principal Secretary, Labour, Govt of Bihar; Mr Piyush Sharma, Joint Secretary and Labour Commissioner, Govt of NCT of Delhi; Mr Jitendra Khattar, Asst. Labour Commissioner Rajasthan; Mr Ramdev Prasad, Chairman, Bihar State Child Labour Commission; Ms Nisha Jha, Chairperson, Bihar State Commission for Protection of Child Rights; Mr Ajay Setia, Chairperson, Uttrakhand State Commission for Protection of Child Rights; Mr S Eswaran, Vice President Education International and Secretary AIPTF; Ms Sherin Khan, Senior Child Labour Specialist, ILO SRO New Delhi; Mr Alisher Umarov, Education Specialist, UNESCO New Delhi, Mr Suneet Chopra All India Agriculture Workers Union; Mr R Dimree, AICCTU; Mr C J George, TdH; Mr Amod Kanth, Prayas; Ms Sandhya Bajaj and other noted panelist participated in the discussions. The key highlights and summaries of the sessions are as below:

Towards a Child Labour Abolition Act 

The difference between all child rights act, especially Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, Right to Education Act, Child Marriage Restraint Act, Indian Penal Code and others must be synchronised towards a comprehensive and congruent policy for the protection of child rights and the abolition of child labour.

Child Labour Abolition Act is a step in the right direction and needs to be followed by proper implementation and enforcement of the Act. The legislation must be backed by tackling the root causes of child labour, i.e., illiteracy, poverty and food insecurity, social exclusion, discrimination and exploitation. Awareness of the issues, with proper training and capacity building of the enforcement agencies, collective action with the civil society organisations particularly the NGOs will create the necessary environment for the enforcement of the Abolition Act.

Education to end Child Labour 

Education has both prevention and curative aspects in relation to eradication of child labour. Child labour can not be abolished unless all children are in schools, and the right to education can not be realised in its fullest sense till children are working in farms and fields. Education empowers children not only by providing them literacy but also knowledge of the rights and durites.

Education for former child labourers is an integral part of their rehabilitation process. There should be provisions for access to and inclusion of the hard to reach and marginalised categories in education, eg. child labourers such as rag-pickers. Integrated child centric community inteventions focused on free, compulsory and quality education can support elimination of child labour and poverty reduction.

Policy coherence 

Coherence is critical grassroots level, but also in terms of policy and laws. All ministries should also tackle the issue of migration and     trafficking, as the migrant workers and the child victims of trafficking are the most vulnerable, and policies and programmes must converge towards them.

The legislative changes at the international and national levels must trickle to the grassroots to be effective, and must be backed by adequate will and resources at all levels.

Programme convergence 

The programmes at the country and state levels on child labour elimination, right to education, protection of children, nutrition, health and others must be better coordinated. The schemes by the central and state government to be effective need to converge for the protection of children and child labour eradication. The coordination of the various programmes should begin at the Ministries and then be translated down to the village levels. Rehabilitation of child labourers must be a state responsibility and the civil society organisations can support the state in ensuring proper rehabilitation of children and their integration in the society.