Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Delhi fails in child labour rehabilitation

Laws fail to deter the pernicious practice in national Capital

Sopan Correspondent / New Delhi

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has said that the Delhi government has failed to take proper action for rescue and rehabilitation of child labourers.

In a submission to the Delhi High Court, the child rights body sought appropriate directions to government authorities while informing the court that rescued children are not being properly rehabilitated.

In its affidavit, the NCPRC said, "There is no guarantee that all rescued child labourers have been successfully restored to their families in the source states. This is evident from a study of 22 rescued child labourers in which three are not traceable and addresses of four children were wrong," the NCPRC said. It said that efforts to rescue child labourers were not being taken up seriously by the Labour Department and Sub-Divisional Magistrates.

"There is no definite feedback regarding proper rehabilitation of all rescued child labourers. Complaints about engagement of child labourers from NGOs are not acted upon promptly. In fact there have been inordinate delays on the part of task force to act upon such complaints," it said.

The affidavit was filed to inform the court about the steps taken by the government after a slew of directions were given by the High Court for the rescue and rehabilitation of child labourers in the city.

The High court had in 2009 passed a detailed order which modified the existing provisions for better rehabilitation of child labourers. It had given Delhi Police extra powers, which were earlier with the Labour Department, to effectively eradicate the problem. "We direct that the responsibility of lodging a police complaint against a person, employing child labour, would lie with the Delhi Police and not the Labour Department," it had said, asking the police to recover Rs 20,000 from the offenders as penalty without waiting for a "conviction order of the offending employer".

The submission of the NCPRC has come as a shock to the Delhi government officials. On condition of anonymity, a senior official said that they do all they can under the conditions but there are certain issues which cannot be resolved at the state government level. “We have a process of restoring the children in which help from the police and the state government where the child has to be sent is sought. In some cases, we do not get the requisite cooperation. It is not fair to put the entire onus on us,” the official said.

Most of the child labourers in Delhi work in industries like Zari, stitching, embroidery etc. where deft and supple hands are needed to do the work. The child labourers are rescued on a routine in the city by the enforcement agencies in association with the NGOs working for the children.

A lot of them work as domestic helps and also in the eating joints in the city. Though there is no dearth of laws to protect the rights of the children, the enforcement is often found to be lacking. Officials admit that the rehabilitation process is extremely time-consuming and their prime responsibility is to send back the children to the states from where they came.

Ironically, there have been several instances where the children, once rescued and sent back to their parents in their native states, come back again to the city and start working in the same industry. Activists say that extreme poverty often forces their parents to send back their children to work as child labourers, some even in hazardous units where they work for 14-16 hours a day.

Rescued children in the embroidery and zari industry have narrated their woes and suffering. They have told their rescuers that they work in small, unhygienic and poorly ventilated units, merely for food and learn the skills. They are deprived of education, recreation and live in unhealthy conditions due to poverty and also coercion in several cases.

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