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And children labour on...

india Updated: Oct 10, 2007 02:48 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
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A year of a ban on domestic child labour has brought some change in the lives of a few thousand rescued children, but lakhs continue to lead miserable lives in

dhabas

and in the homes of influential families, including those of government officials.



A Planning Commission official was recently booked for employing a child as domestic help. The child committed suicide.



A few weeks ago, the NGO Pratidhi rescued a child from a

dhaba

opposite Town Hall after an MCD official reported his plight to childline, a children’s helpline. Of the two domestic child labour violations detected in Goa, one was in a state government office.



With just a few rescues, the official estimate of children still employed in homes and roadside eateries in Delhi and Mumbai is over 1.5 lakh. “The situation has not changed as government agencies aren’t willing to take full-fledged action against culprits,” said Raaj Mangal Prasad of Pratidhi. A Labour Ministry official, however, said officials are not permitted to raid homes and dhabas to check the age of the servants employed.



The status report on implementation of the ban from October 10, 2006, indicates that the government knows that in most states, barring some in the south, enforcement has been poor. “It cannot happen overnight,” an official said, but added that the biggest achievement of the ban was generating awareness among the masses.



But the ministry holds out hope for the future. Things may change as the Centre has decided to overcome two major problems cited by state labour departments in the enforcement of the ban — no guidelines on rescue and rehabilitation and not enough bridge schools for rescued children.



The ministry has initiated a process to formulate guidelines on migration, trafficking, rescue and repatriation of child labourers. “Under these, each state will have to nominate a nodal officer for restoring children either back to their parents or for rehabilitation,” a ministry official said.



All central government schemes for child labourers will be brought under the new guidelines, the official said. Developing infrastructure and economic upliftment of families of victims is another aspect.



For cities like Delhi and Mumbai, focal centres for trafficking of child labourers, the ministry has proposed big residential schools for rescued children. “These will be different from conventional schools. They will be bridge schools and help improve (awareness) levels of rescued children for admission in regular schools.”



The government will also introduce a system to track and monitor rescued child labourers.