The government's claims of preventing child labour have fallen flat. The labour department has failed to tackle menace in Doaba region owing to acute shortage of staff.
The department is observing a child labour prevention week from June 16, exhorting people to stop engaging children in work, particularly that of hazardous nature. But due to staff shortage, the drive has become a headache for the department.
As per information, against the nine sanctioned posts of labour inspector, the district labour department has only three labour inspectors, who have been working with additional charge of other districts for the past two years.
Assistant labour commissioner Sukhjinder Singh said, "We have only three inspectors in Jalandhar, who have additional charge of Kapurthala and Hoshiarpur districts, while the department has one inspector at Nawanshahr district to work on complaints
related to child labour, which makes it tough to manage workload."
"We have divided the time of raids and places among the staff so that they could conduct raids in all villages and cities of the district during this week to curb child labour," he added.
As per guidelines under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, employment of children below the age of 14 years in hazardous industries that are harmful to the health of the child is banned and it is the duty of the inspector to tackle it and keep a check on it. The 10-14 years age-group is that of school-going children.
Sources in the department said last year, the department had conducted 840 inspections and rescued only 20 children under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. Even they were rescued from local shops or bazaars to somehow complete the target of the department.
"Around 50 to 60 complaints relating to labourers are received every month at the department and that makes it tough to manage time when it comes to inspection. Ministerial staff's post has been vacant for long," a senior labour officer said.
"Despite that, our staff is doing their best to curb child labour in the region. But still, we need more staff for efficiency. Moreover, it is the duty of police officers as well as citizens to inform the labour department if any child is enrolled for labour, but people usually do not bother to do that," Singh added.