Chronicle Reporter, Bhopal, Many programmes were organized in the capital and other places in the state on Tuesday on the occasion of World Day Against Child Labour. However, such programmes do not serve to reduce the child labour in the state. Besides no one pays attention towards the children working in the city.
Children are seen working in residential areas but those responsible have no time to care for them. They can easily be spotted working in hotels, dhabas, tea kiosks etc. in the city and at many traffic squares and other places children can be regularly spotted begging.
A study conducted by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has revealed that Madhya Pradesh tops the list of highest number of child labourers in the country. The appalling figures point out that the highest number of child labourers engaged in Beedi industry, are from MP.
NCPCR conducted study in different parts of the country and found out that out of all states with Beedi industries, Madhya Pradesh has highest number of child labourers engaged in the trade. Madhya Pradesh has Beedi making units in Sagar, Damoh, Jabalpur, Katni, Satna, Chhatarpur, Indore and other places.
Over 18% of the total Beedi workers or 4.3 million are in MP which attributes to highest number of child labourers in state followed by others including Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Odisha & Andhra Pradesh.
On the flipside, labour department officials claimed that the number of Beedi industries has significantly shrunk in the state.
A drive should be conducted under Sarva Shikhsa Abhiyaan for bringing them to schools as school dropouts are most vulnerable to child labour, feel activists. Madhya Pradesh has seen an increase of 272% of marginal workers in case of girls aged 5-9.
For boys, the increase has been 238% in last decade. Besides, in case of main workers (girls), it has gone up by 183%. There are currently more than 7 lakh working children in the state (5-14 years).
Half of 5.5 million working children in India are concentrated in five states — Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
A growing phenomenon is using children as domestic workers in urban areas. The conditions in which children work is completely unregulated and they are often made to work without food, and very low wages, resembling situations of slavery. There are cases of physical, sexual and emotional abuse of child domestic workers.
The argument for domestic work is often that families have placed their children in these homes for care and employment. There has been a recent notification by the Ministry of Labour making child domestic work as well as employment of children in dhabas, tea stalls and restaurants “hazardous” occupations.
MP accounts for highest number of child labourers engaged in beedi industry. Child labourers are categorized into two — main and marginal. Main worker is someone, who has worked for more than six months and marginal is someone who has worked for less than 6 months.
According to CRY analysis, Bhopal and Indore figure in highest number of working children (5-9 years) category along with Dhar, Rewa and Alirajpur.
Jhabua, Alirajpur, Dhar, Barwani and Khargone (West Nimar) have highest number of working children in 10-14 years.
Dhar and Jhabua have maximum boy and girl child workers in the state. Together, two districts account for more than 37,000 child labourers.
Govt must form effective law
Bachpan sanstha’s member Ramkumar Vidyarthi said many infrastructural amendments are needed to end child labour in the state. Poverty and lack of social security are the main causes of child labour.
The increasing gap between the rich and the poor, privatization of basic services and the economic policies drive population out of employment and without basic needs. This adversely affects children more than any other group.
Entry of multi-national corporations into industry without proper mechanisms to hold them accountable has led to the use of child labour. Lack of quality universal education has also contributed to children dropping out of school and entering the labour force.
A major concern is that the actual number of child labourers goes undetected. Laws that are meant to protect children from hazardous labour are ineffective and not implemented correctly.
Provisions to check child labour
Legal expert and former member of MP Child Commission Vibhanshu Joshi has said there is provision of punishment in Constitution for child labour. New amendments have been made in the law and they appear to be progressive in nature but they have down side also.
Like the new amendments put a complete prohibition on employment of children, but at the same time they allow children to be employed in family enterprises/businesses.
Considering that majority of child labour activities happen in economically weaker section of the society which is highly unregulated, no proper mechanism has been provided to keep the same in check with the new amendments.
Further, the list of hazardous industries has been drastically decreased, this may allow the employers in industries like chemical mixing units, cotton farms, battery recycling units, and brick kilns etc, which are actually hazardous, to employ adolescent labour, which they may even get at a much cheaper price.