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Rs 36 cr spent to rehabilitate child labourers?

The Centre has transferred well over Rs 36.52 crore to Bihar since 2004-05 for running National Child Labour Project (NCLP) special schools in 24 districts of the state, for rehabilitation of rescued child labourers. Rai Atul Krishna reports.

india Updated: Nov 05, 2009 12:52 IST
Rai Atul Krishna

NCLP truths

Rs 36.52 cr central fund spent on special schools for child labourers.

Child Labour Commission admits not one child fully rehabilitated.

12 distts on "neither documents received nor schools running" list.

Irregularities reported but no state say in the matter: Dy CM Modi.

Probe by Child Labour Commission ordered: Labour Minister.

No such letter received, says commission chief Ramdeo Prasad.

The Centre has transferred well over Rs 36.52 crore to Bihar since 2004-05 for running National Child Labour Project (NCLP) special schools in 24 districts of the state, for rehabilitation of rescued child labourers.

But there is not a shred of evidence available till date to show that all this money has facilitated full and final rehabilitation of even one out of more than 11.15 lakh (Census 2001 figure) child labourers of the State.

This was the bitter truth, admitted by Bihar Child Labour Commission chairman Ramdeo Prasad. It is Prasad's job to know such things. Two-and-a-half years into the office, the conclusion he has arrived at should be a cause of some worry.

"Not a single case of full rehabilitation of a child labourer has come to my notice so far. Children inevitably return to jobs from which they are deemed to have been rescued", Prasad told HT on Tuesday.

The NCLP has a funding figure of Rs 36.52 crore is for 2004-07 and 2008-09. The actual amount is much more but despite much effort, the devolution of funds figure for 2007-08 could not be accessed.

So, where has all the money gone? At least the top political leadership of Bihar has not got a clue about this, thanks to the peculiar nature of devolution of NCLP funds and its monitoring process.

"NCLP funds go directly to districts, without the government coming into the picture. There are many complaints about the way the scheme is being run but there's little we can do", Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi told HT. The Centre ought to bring the state government in the NCLP loop, he added.

Interestingly, Bihar's Principal Secretary (Labour Resources) is an ex-officio member of the central monitoring committee of the NCLP. But any input he may be providing hasn't left the political leadership any wiser.

Bihar Labour Minister Awadhesh Narayan Singh said on Monday that an inquiry by Child Labour Commission chief had been ordered into charges of irregularity in NCLP, following his assurance in the Assembly on June 30.

But BLC chairman Prasad told HT on Tuesday no such reference had been made to him till date. Rather, on August 26 this year, the Labour Commissioner issued an order authorising 'raid parties' comprising minor officials to inspect NCLP schools!

So, what is it with Bihar's NCLP schools? Official records show 78,939 child labourers are enrolled in 1,416 such schools. But even the Union Labour Ministry has now indicated many of them exist only on paper.

In a letter dated June 25, 2009, Goutam Roy, Director in the Ministry, advised Bihar's Principal Secretary (Labour Resources) Vyasji that 12 NCLP districts of Bihar had been placed under Category 'D'.

The 'D' category comprises districts that had neither provided documents to the Ministry nor had NCLP schools been found running in them. Roy had also sought status reports on NCLP schools from the DMs of these districts.

The 'D' category districts are Banka, Begusarai, East Champaran, West Champaran, Gaya, Madhubani, Muzaffarpur, Nawada, Samastipur, Saran, Sitamarhi and Nalanda, the home district of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

Together, these 12 districts have received Rs 10.23 crore of NCLP funds since 2004-05 (barring 2007-08 for which figures are unavailable). Out of this, Nalanda's share has been Rs 4.17 crore.

Nalanda figures on the Labour Ministry's "neither documents received nor schools are running" list but district magistrate Sanjay Kumar Agarwal has another story to tell.

Agarwal says the NCLP funds were all accounted for and 50 special schools, with about 100 students each, were running fine barring minor aberrations. "The fact is these schools are facing closure owing to denial of funds by the Centre over the past year. For how long can NGOs run them on credit?" he wondered.

But complaints persist. In a letter to Union Labour Minister Mallikarjun Khadge, Central Advisory Board on Child Labour member Anjani Kumar has cited serious irregularities in NCLP implementation.

Kumar has alleged district NCLP societies in Bihar were being constituted to the exclusion of people's representatives like MPs and MLAs and that NCLP schools were 'sold' to select NGOs for a monetary consideration. He also quotes a 15-school, UNICEF-commissioned survey showing 80 per cent of those enrolled in NCLP schools were never child labourers.