In a state where over 7 lakh children are toiling to eke out a living or support their families financially, the Madhya Pradesh government has been able to find only 108 child labourers.
The state government, in reply to a question, presented information in the recently concluded monsoon session of the MP assembly that only 108 child labourers had been found in 11 districts of the state between 2011 and 2013. The Census 2011 data shows that there are 7,00,239 identified child labourers in Madhya Pradesh.
Interestingly, principal secretary of the labour department MK Varshneya feigned ignorance about the Census data, asking HT whether such specific data was given out in Census. In such a situation, it is not surprising then that such discrepant data was presented on the assembly floor.
In the 11 districts alone, where MP government has reported 108 child workers, there are 1.66 lakh children engaged in labour, the Census data shows. The data further shows that apart from the 7 lakh child workers, over 2.90 lakh children (in the age group of five to 14 years) are seeking or available for work. In such a situation, the meagre data presented in state assembly comes as a shock.
"Such data becomes the basis of policy decisions and programmes for the government and such discrepant data leads to totally off-base policies that only aggravate the situation," Sachin Jain of Right to Food Campaign, Madhya Pradesh said. He said the government does not undertake survey to identify child labourers, let alone take action to mitigate the problem. Principal secretary Varshneya admits so. "No, we do not undertake any survey to find out the exact number of workers. We take action on the basis of complaints or if anything specific comes to our notice," he said while talking to HT.
When asked whether any such survey was under consideration, he said there is no such plan as of now, but the department would take action as and when needed.
An analysis of the Census data by NGO Vikas Samvad shows between censuses of 2001 and 2011, the number of child labourers in the state went down from 10.65 lakh to 7 lakh, but the number of children seeking or available for work went up sharply from 76,884 to 2,90,420. Jain said even in the Census data, children engaged in begging or commercial sex work are not included in the labourer category, something that would burgeon the figures further.