HYDERABAD: As Operation Muskaan continues to rescue children forced into labour from across the State, the national portal for reporting child labour — PENCIL — gathers dust.
The online portal, PENCIL which stands for Platform for Effective Enforcement for No Child Labour, in the two years of it’s operation, has received only 34 complaints from different parts of the State. Of these 34, not a single child has been rescued till date.
It is learnt that these complaints most often end up being addressed very late by the officials and most of the time, the child would have left the location owing to migration, or would have crossed the age-bar before being rescued.
In this fashion, about 17 cases have been closed with no specific understanding of why they were not addressed. Of these, in 16 cases a First Action Report (FIR) was filed.
The PENCIL portal by concept is seen as an effective way ahead to tackle child labour as it allows one to log onto the website, register and lodge a complaint and provide location, proof in form of pictures and videos of the vulnerable child.
It has been promoted as an effective way to tackle the menace of domestic child labour in urban households, as citizens can easily tip-off officials with the use of technology.
It must be noted that domestic child labour is not covered as part of the police department driven
Operation Smile or Muskaan unless it is based on a tip-off.
More crucially, the portal helps the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) programme rescue children and rehabilitate them either in a school or in a special training centre.
While lack of promotion is a critical element to the problem, another crucial element, officials note, is the delay in following up on complaints.
Officials from labour department also say note that part of the problem is also the fact that the portal lacks teeth and doesn’t allow in-depth follow up of cases.
“There are several issues with the portal when it comes for use by the officials. There is no way that a state level official can monitor the status of the case or find out why it was closed, as the scope of the portal is limited to only reporting whether a child was employed or not without any place for comments,” noted a labour department official.
“The attitude of the labour department is poor in terms of both understanding the issue and giving a response. They need to understand that like any other social crime, child labour or bonded labour has to be addressed within 24 hours or the whole scenario changes. However, there is immense delay from their end in recognizing this as a crime, and in acting with swiftness,” noted Dr Krishnan, Executive Director,
National Adivasi Solidarity Council.