NCPCR chairperson declares Jharkhand mica mines 'child labour free,' ensures all local children now head to school

The creation of 'Child Labour Free Mica' was the result of collaboration among children, communities, civil society organizations, and the government.
NCPCR chairperson declares Jharkhand mica mines 'child labour free,' ensures all local children now head to school
Photo - X -@KanoongoPriyank

RANCHI: In a landmark achievement for the state and country, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) Chairperson on Friday declared Mica mines in Jharkhand as ‘Child Labour Free’. The NCPCR Chairperson Priyank Kanoongo, during a programme organised by ‘Child Labour free Mica’ in Koderma, He emphasized that all child labourers have been withdrawn from the mica mines and are now enrolled in schools.

Kanoongo attributed the first ever such successful endeavour to cleanse supply chain of child labour in mica mining to the collaborative efforts made by the state, district, and local governing bodies, ‘Child Labour Free Mica’ programme, children and communities. “Today as I declare that all children are free from exploitation in mica mines and are headed to schools, and not mines, I feel overwhelmed and proud as well. What the joint efforts and will power of Child Labour Free Mica program, village Panchayats, state government and district administration has achieved in these villages is a testament of how consistent efforts and single-minded aim can ensure safety and justice for children,” said Kanoongo.

"This is the beginning of the end of child labour in mica mines and that has to be maintained now, he added. Notably, in 2004, a research done by ‘Bachpan Bachao Andolan’ had found that over 5000 children were involved in mica mining and collection of ‘(mica scrap or waste mica available in the dumpsites of the mica belts of Koderma and Giridih districts). By 2019, this number increased to more than 20,000.

The creation of 'Child Labour Free Mica' was the result of collaboration among children, communities, civil society organizations, and the government. Each child who was not attending school was identified, removed from labour, enrolled in school, and ensured continued education.

The occasion was an emotionally charged reflecting the celebration of a generational change, highlighting the parents, who were once toiling in these mines as children, coming together to promise to never allow their children to ever work in mica mines (or elsewhere) and send them to school.

Reflecting on the long, arduous journey towards making mica mines child labour free, Bhuwan Ribhu, noted child rights activist who has worked on the issue for 20 years, said, “The identification of 22,000 children in mica mining and collection and their subsequent withdrawal from work and enrolment in schools is a landmark achievement of the government and the civil society organisations involved in the work of child labour free mica,” said Ribhu.

"This is an example to be replicated across the world in the unorganised sector for the complete elimination of child labour in global supply chains," he added.

According to Ribhu, with the strategic, collaborative and consistent work by the ‘Child Labour Free Mica’ program, all the 684 mica-dependent villages are now free from child labour, while 20,584 children have been withdrawn from mica mining and 30,364 children have enrolled in schools so far. What makes the program even more unique is the facts that, while it is for the children, it has also ensured that the children are at the forefront steering and bringing in the changes, he added.

While all children are enrolled in schools now, the ‘Child Labour Free Mica’ program will continue to keep a close eye on these villages till 2025 to ensure that no child, under any circumstances, is roped in labour in the supply chain of mica mining in the region.

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