HYDERABAD: The July leg of Operation Muskaan rescued 3,470 children from across the State, who were mainly child labour, ragpickers, or were missing or orphans. Of those rescued, a whopping 2,508 children were child labour who make up 72% of all the children rescued, followed by street children who were 422 in number. This is the second-highest number of children ever rescued in the State since 2017 January, when 4,033 children were rescued.
While the numbers are optimistic and showcase how combined efforts of Women and Child Welfare Department, Police and Labour department is yielding results, a closer look on the 5-year data shows a different picture.
Till date, operation Muskaan and Operation Smile combined, close to 10 special drives have been conducted between 2014 to 2019, wherein, 2 drives in January and July are conducted every year. An analysis of the number of children rescued shows that there has been no significant reduction in the number of children rescued, with numbers ranging between 2000-3000 on an average.
In fact, the share of child labourers has been consistently high, with an average of 60-70% of those recused being employed in odd jobs. In the last 5 years of the 26,946 rescued, 16,300 were child labourers.
Officials note that may be due to the fact that conviction rate being very poor in all cases, children who were rescued are simply taken for rehabilitation and the cases are not pressed in time. The labour department’s annual statistics suggest only 103 have been convicted in 5 years out of 888 cases booked. None of those convicted have served a term in jail. “Even today, the children rescued in Operation Smile are found 6 months later in Operation Muskaan. The departments, be it Women and Child or Labour need to make more concrete efforts to track these kids post-rescue and ensure effective rehabilitation,” Achyuta Rao, Child activist.
86% rescued kids belong To Telangana
Of the 3,470 children rescued in July during Operation Muskaan, 2,992 belonged to TS. This implies that close to 86.22% of children on the streets are from the State, forced or coerced into the situation either as orphans, beggars or child labour.
According to officials, all these children rescued, have been rehabilitated by the State or by the other mediums. For those sent back to their parents, there is no certainty on the fate they meet as there is no mechanism to track them.
In fact, though the labour department has a mechanism of setting up Special Training Centres as per the National Child Labour Project. to help child labour to bridge the gap on lost academics and restore them to regular school, nothing concrete has happened with merely 36 operational. A whole of 54 have been approved but yet to start and furthermore, at least 19 more STC’s are awaiting funds