HYDERABAD: “Out of every five, two bricks are made by children,” informs Umi Daniel in his address to a mixed group of people at Lamakaan on Sunday morning. These children accompany their parents who migrate in search of a livelihood.
The regional head, migration, thematic unit of Aide Et Action, South Asia, Umi Daniel has been working for and understanding the lives and difficulties of migrants for close to twenty years now. He was one of the 10 speakers sharing his experiences, in the two-day event – Saddahaq – change makers.
Talking to City Express, the activist stresses, it is children who receive major blows in this whole process of migration, where 30 million people in India are migrant labourers –primarily in search of livelihood –from rural to urban and sub-urban areas.
“It is mostly during the months of November to July that seasonal migration takes place. Along with parents, children too are forced to accompany them and they start living inside the construction sites or brick kilns or they build a temporary shelter,” he says adding that this all leads to deprivation of literally everything – drinking water, health and sanitation facilities and also education. “They are deprived of their basic rights. Apart from this, there is a rise in the number of children who become victims of child labour. They all start living as invisible entities,” he informs pointing out that work in a brick kiln is designed in such a way that every member in the family has a role to play.
“Newly-made bricks are laid to dry and children are supposed to walk on them in order to check their consistency,” he says. These families fall in the category of bonded labourers and they have no say in the process.
“We once rescued a family that was working in a brick kiln for 22 years, as they signed a bond with the owner,” recalls Umi. They are indebted to the owner and all the members of the family work in order to meet and fulfil the debt.
Umi and his team, in consultation with various civil societies, have been working on designing solutions for the same issues, in collaboration with state governments. With continuous movement from one hazardous environment to another, workable solutions are a task. But Umi says, “There are ways in which services can become portable with child learning centres equipped inside a brick kiln area or a construction site.”
While that is one plausible solution in terms of adding their growth and learning capabilities, tried and tested by the Tamil Nadu government, Umi also has more to fulfil needs of these migrants.
“These learning centres inside the migrant areas could serve the needs of toddlers with volunteers who can converse in their native language. The older children can get admitted into the local schools, which collaborates with the local anganwadi. This gives them their daily quota of nutrition as part of the mid-day meal,” he explains.
Admission of a child into a school in the migrated area is also a simple process. “As per the Right to Education Act, no child can be denied admission into any school, at any point of time. So when a child migrates along with his parents, he can avail admission in the local school, after which he will receive certification in writing from the headmaster,” he elaborates. The level of education of these migrant children is also certified. This helps the child to go back and re-enroll himself in the school back home. And all of the activities are taken care of by local volunteers in association with migration, thematic unit of Aide Et Action, South Asia.