Tamil Nadu plans scheme to reduce child labour
In Virudhunagar district known for its fireworks units, Rs 14 lakh was collected as fine from offenders for employing child workers since March 2020.
Published: 09th October 2022 08:13 AM | Last Updated: 09th October 2022 08:13 AM | A+A A-
CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu government may soon launch a scheme similar to the National Child Labour Programme (NCLP), which was subsumed with Samagara Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) by the Union government, to control increasing cases of child labour and stop students from dropping out of schools.
According to sources, because of the economic hardship caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and lack of institutional support due to merger of NCLP, the dropout rate among children vulnerable to child labour in Tamil Nadu has gone up. According to a random survey conducted by Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL) in March 2021, child labour had increased by 180% in the State compared to 2020.
In Virudhunagar district known for its fireworks units, Rs 14 lakh was collected as fine from offenders for employing child workers since March 2020. The increase in fine, which was twice more than previous years, indicates that more children are being forced to take up jobs, sources said.
Hitherto, under NCLP, rescued child labourers were enrolled in special training centres (STCs) and were later mainstreamed into normal schools. The programme was started to rehabilitate working children in 12 districts of the country in 1988 and expanded to other districts. The rescued children were also given Rs 400 per month stipend to prevent them from joining labour force again.
As per November 2021 data, the NCLP was implemented in 15 districts in TN through 213 STCs. After the programme was subsumed with SSA, the Centre asked State governments to admit the rescued children in nearby schools. At least 724 employees were involved in implementing the programme across Tamil Nadu before the merger.
At a recent meeting of school education and labour department, officials were asked to submit proposals on resuming operation of STCs. “A plan to have one residential special training centre in each of the 15 project districts, which were operational under NCLP, to prevent child labour was also discussed in the meeting,” an official said.
Child right activists said the Centre’s decision to scrap NCLP came as a shock as there was perceptible increase in child labour after the pandemic. The possibility of State launching a similar scheme is a welcome move, they said. While surveys are conducted under SSA to identify students up to the age of 19 years who drop out of school, child labour couldn’t be prevented entirely under the scheme, they said.
“Due to shortage of Block Resource Teacher Educators (BRTEs), inter-district migration and other factors, children who dropped out of school couldn’t be traced. Some school education department officials said there could be nearly one lakh out-of-school children in TN. The State must also increase stipend provided to children under the new scheme to ensure that they are not forced to work again,” said an activist. In Tamil Nadu alone, NCLP has helped mainstream 1.2 lakh children since inception.
“Apart from starting the new programme, areas with a low net enrollment of adolescent children should be identified and focused attention should be provided to these hotspots. Issues such as poor transport and toilets in government schools should also be addressed,” said R Karupasamy of CACL.
More than 700 employees who were associated with NLCP in TN are also hopeful. “The State recently told the Madras HC that employees could expect positive news regarding their livelihood,” said S Alagujothi, secretary, Tamilnadu Desia Kulanthai Tholialar Sirappupalli Asiriar Matrum Uzhiar Sangam.
‘Child labour up 180%’
According to a random survey conducted by Campaign Against Child Labour in March 2021, child labour had increased by 180% in TN compared to the previous year.