BANGALORE: Thirteen-year-old Rafiq (name changed) is angry, restless and frustrated. He hasn’t been able to rest well, eat properly or even experience the simple joy of playing with his friends. He stares blankly at the vehicles passing by on the busy J C Road, when he suddenly gets yelled at by someone for not finishing his work. No, not his parents for not doing his homework. But, by his employers for leaving some work unattended.
Rafiq works in a mechanic shop on JC Road and is busy replacing a punctured tyre with his frail limbs. With earning three meals a day more of his immediate concern, education is in fact, a distant dream.
With the State Government extending the deadline to make Karnataka, a child labour-free state from 2007 to 2012, this year is very crucial for the government, even though their efforts to eliminate this menace seems to be floundering. As we say this, we are surrounded by lakhs of Rafiqs slogging away at construction sites, hotels, households, garages, factories, manufacturing industries, export-oriented hazardous industries like brassware, beedi rolling etc and even a bigger number in the rural areas.
According to the State Resource Centre on Child Labour website, “Nearly 85 per cent of child labourers in India are hard-to-reach, invisible and excluded, as they work largely in the unorganised sector, both rural and urban, within the family or in household-based units, which are generally out of the purview of labour laws.”
As per the information submitted by the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority to the Karnataka High Court last year after the Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL) filed a public interest litigation plea on the prevalence of child labour in mines and other industrial establishments, it is estimated that as many as 2,703 child labourers were employed in different industries in the State.
When we asked P. Lakshapathy, executive director of the Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA) if the efforts by the government are enough, he said, “Around 80 per cent of the rescued children in the city are from households (domestic sector. Strategically, what the government is doing is just not enough. The number of child labourers are increasing in the invisible sector thanks to the large number of children of migrant workers coming from Jharkhand, Orissa, Bihar. There are hundreds of children working in brick industries in Karnataka. Two years back, we rescued 53 children from a village near Doddaballapur. They were all from Bolangir district in Orissa.” He added, “The collectorate office in Bolangir district informed us that approximately 40,000 people from Bolangir in Orissa are working in the brick industry in Karnataka which employs many children. Our judiciary is not active and there are no fast track courts for cases relating to child labour.”
The State Child Labour Project (SCLP), which provides upto six years of residential education for rescued child laborers, has failed to ensure attendance of students in classrooms as they still continue to work. The city has over 100 rehabilitation centres to assist in stabilising child labour victims through socio-psychological rehabilitation and `1.9 crore has been released by the government in the last 10 years to fight child labour.