THE growing incidence of child labour in almost all sectors has necessitated action from various groups. Both the government and non-governmental organisations have evolved different strategies to address the issue of child labour. A major step is to loc ate where problems exist; in the community, the governmental machinery, the institutions, developmental approach or in all these?
The government has failed to implement the constitutional mandate of free, compulsory and qualitative education for all children. In this regard, there is a need to initiate a process that speaks not only of compulsory education but also of equitable and qualitative education for all children.
The Central government is currently sponsoring the National Child Labour Projects (NCLP) throughout the country, which seeks to rehabilitate working children through non-formal education for them and financial provisions for their families. All attempts by the government toward eradicating child labour in the taluks of Bangalore Rural district have been limited to establishing residential schools and hostels for working children (100 children per district), raiding filature units, and conducting meeting s with employers.
Said a child worker: "When our yajmaan (owner) knows that the inspector is coming for a check, he warns us not to come to work for two to three days or if there is a surprise check, he tells the supervisor to lock the inner door to let us run out from the other side."
However, none of the efforts by the government has fulfilled the objective of reducing the number of working children in the sericulture sector. On the contrary, the number seems to be increasing with more children dropping out of school and entering the workforce every year. "They beat us up, give us stale food and then expect us to study, I prefer work to this kind of school," says Anees, a child who ran away from the local government hostel and rejoined work.
The various approaches adopted by NGOs to address the issue of child labour can be broadly classified as rehabilitative and preventive. Although most of these efforts affect only a small number of children directly, they have been effective to some exten t in creating a climate that makes the employment of children difficult.
Rehabilitative efforts mostly consist of conducting non-formal education classes, enrolling working children into hostels or formal schools or providing vocational training facilities to them. Several NGOs also attempt to prevent the employment of childr en by conducting campaigns, working with parents, and organising children. Although rehabilitation and prevention can be viewed as separate approaches, some NGOs also employ an integrated approach to address the complex and multi-faceted issue of eradica tion of child labour.
"In the two taluks of Channapatna and Ramanagaram, there has been no intervention in the past even by the voluntary sector to mobilise public opinion against employing children," says Sreeja, a representative of MAYA. MAYA believes that there is a correl ation between the poor quality schools and the increasing incidence of child labour in the sericulture industry. In the absence of quality schools and relevant education for children, sending children to work at the filature units has almost become a cul ture in the villages and slums in these areas.
What is required, according to the activists at MAYA, is a concerted effort with the convergence of the Labour Department, the Sericulture Department, the Education Department, development organisations, parents and civil society to create an environment that eradicates child labour.