NEW DELHI: There are high chances that child labour in home-based enterprises, agriculture and in hazardous occupations may see a rise in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis, child rights body CRY said on Thursday.
Noting that many children are likely to be pushed into unskilled labour to compensate for the economic loss and supplement dwindling family income, the NGO Child Rights and You (CRY) said in all likelihood the children who are experiencing the struggle of their families may choose to work instead of study to help their household.
In this context, CRY organised an e-consultation to underscore how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the situation of child and adolescent labour in India.
The consultation revolved around how the recent labour law relaxation in some states will have far-reaching effects on adolescent labour and explored the collective effort of the civil society and state to combat the evil of child labour.
The experts' panel was chaired by Priyank Kanoongo, Chairperson, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and included Rahul Sapkal, Assistant Professor at Centre for Labour Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Protiva Kundu, Additional Coordinator-Research, Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability and Ashok Kumar, Convener of National Advocacy at Campaign against Child Labour.
Kanoongo highlighted that it is crucial to use existing laws efficiently to address child labour.
"We need to ensure that we are using the existing laws, not sitting and feeling helpless. The Number of FIRs filed so far is extremely poor compared to the large number of child labourers in the country. Therefore, it is everyone's responsibility to report and file FIRs on child labour," he said.
"I appeal to civil society organisations to help strengthen reporting mechanisms and compensation and rehabilitation schemes to address child labour in the country," said Kanoongo.
Puja Marwaha, CEO at CRY said, "The advent of COVID-19 seems to be one major contributing factor to undo all efforts made in reducing and ending child labour."
"Though child protection programming is vital to resolve the issue, CRY believes that the mechanism will be effective only when there is convergence among key departments of women and child development, education, labour, health and home affairs."
Rahul Sapkal, Assistant Professor, Centre for Labour Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) said, "Changes in labour laws will weaken enforcement mechanism which may further increase child labour amid this crisis.
"The Child Labour legislation needs to be revised as many aspects of climate change and hazardous industries are not yet incorporated. This revision must include revisiting the definition of what constitutes as hazardous industries keeping the developing capacities of children in mind."
The CRY presented a set of recommendations, including that the government needs to make concerted efforts to improve the public health system along with strengthening social security, education and child protection mechanisms.
The child rights NGO also recommended stringent enforcement of the child labour law.
"The Integrated Child Protection Services Scheme is critical to safeguard children from the impact of the COVID-19, including the fallouts of an economic slowdown.
"The government should also open special training centres with bridge classes in keeping with social distancing and other norms to help children make up for the academic loss," the CRY said.
It also called for non-government and civil society organisations to support and strengthen government efforts, especially when it comes to identifying vulnerable children.
"They also join in the effort to build awareness and act as channels for multiplying children's voices.
They can also play a huge role in reaching out to last-mile children and families and help the government to deliver the social protection schemes to children and their families," the NGO said.