Dame luck is smiling on the children of lesser gods. The government has waved its magic wand.
After bringing the hospitality industry and the domestic helps under the child labour regulations from October 10, the government now plans to set up residential schools in every district for child labourers.
A five-year-rehabilitation blueprint — the biggest-ever project drawn up by the ministry of labour — will cover 1.26 crore child labourers.
The ministry has asked the Planning Commission for Rs 1,500 crore to cover 600 districts under the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) as against 250 districts, at present.
Ministry officials said children, aged between 9 to 14, working in 57 hazardous industries, dhabas and at homes, will be covered under the revised project. “NGOs will be authorised to open residential schools for 40 children in every district to bring them to the mainstream,” the official said.
These schools will be set up after a detailed survey by a district-level committee headed by district collector, who will monitor the scheme.
The schools will be set up near child labour endemic areas and the students will be given a stipend of Rs 100 per month. They will also be brought under other government schemes like the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, the official said.
Ambitious it may sound, questions on its feasibility abound: whether it will work or not like most other government schemes.
Officials, however, cite the Andhra Pradesh model to prove that child labour figures have come down in areas under the NCLP. But they refuse to set a deadline for complete eradication of child labour.
“There are a number of factors linked to child labour and we are not the nodal ministry to deal with all the issues,” the official explained.
Education apart, the government has now broadened its focus to identify child labour endemic areas in the country, which need special focus.
Places like Sitamarhi in Bihar and West Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh are the biggest source of child labour — supplying the bulk of little boys and girls to the metropolitan cities. “The need of the hour is to tackle the problem of employment in specific locations,” the official emphasised.
As part of the new strategy, every state government has submitted action plans to deal with the problem of child labour.
Most states have promised to work on rehabilitation and training of child labourers. “We will come up with the National Vocational Training Mission before next year to support the state government initiatives,” the ministry official promised.
India banned hiring of children under 14 as domestic helps, industrial labour and in unorganised sectors last month.