The Planning Commission has agreed in principle to a proposal made by Union Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes on adopting a more inclusive approach to end the problem of child labour. There will be schemes for restoring child workers into the mainstream and for financially empowering their parents. The plan will become functional from the next financial year.
Child workers will also get access to better education through residential schools to be opened in areas where the problem is acute and they will be entitled for priority admission in other schools. To keep them in the school system, the government proposes to give them stipends and midday meals. "Through education, we want to usher them into the mainstream,"a senior government official said.
When the children cross the age of 14, after which the Child Labour Prohibition Act no longer applies to them, they will get special vocational training in sectors which offer job opportunities. This will apply to children between 14 and 17 years, an official said.
The Labour ministry approach takes into consideration that child labour cannot be eradicated unless poverty is tackled. "It has to be a joint effort by all the ministries in the social sector to improve the financial condition of these parents," a labour ministry official said. The ministries listed for collaboration are Health, Women and Child Development, Rural Development and Urban Development ministry.
On its part, the Labour ministry will run the National Child Labour Project in all 600 districts as opposed to the current 250. The ministry will rope in NGOs to run schools and health centres for child workers who have been rescued.
The government also wants to widen the scope of the industries where child labour is to be banned. A decision will be made only after discussions with the state governments, the official said. In October 2006, the government had banned child labour from the domestic sector and hospitality industry.