Santosh Shinde, child rights activist and member of the state’s Child Welfare Committee, believes the lack of awareness about child labour is proving to be a serious challenge in addressing the problem. Excerpts from an interview:
What are the challenges in estimating the number of child labourers in the city?
Estimating the number of child labourers in Mumbai cannot be done because the number of children working as domestic help are not visible and cannot be counted. In a survey of highways last year, we found that of the 600-odd dhabas and restaurants on the western and eastern express highways, 60 per cent had children working in them. There are around one lakh children below 18 working as child labour in the city.
What are the issues involved in tackling child labour?
Since children forced to work cannot be counted, it is difficult to eradicate the problem. When a child is rescued, the government should ensure he or she is rehabilitated or sent to school so they don’t go back to working. Also, children keep migrating to the city from other places due to poverty and unemployment.
What are the solutions?
The government’s work combined with public support can work wonders. Awareness among the public is critical.
Is the existing regulation enough?
The government has only laid down laws without having a regulatory agency to see that those laws are been followed. With increasing instances of underage domestic helps being abused in the city, the government needs to act urgently.
What should the government do?
At the grass-root level, the government should provide education, medical facilities and employment to adults so there is no need for children to migrate and work.