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Table talks over twin laws on child rights

A clutch of activities. All aimed to give children a better life.

A workshop was organised this week at Seagull Arts and Media Resource Centre with representatives and social workers from NGOs in Bengal and the Northeast. Organised by Save the Children, an international funding organisation, and Pairavi, a Delhi-based NGO, it was the last in a series of four workshops. The observations from the regional sessions will be debated at a national seminar in Delhi on July 1. And from July 23 to 25, a workshop for children has been lined up to allow them to have their say in the presence of police officers and government officials.

All this action has been spurred by twin items on the agenda this monsoon session of the Parliament. The amended versions of the National Commission of Children Bill, 1999, and the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 — both key formulations of the Centre’s child rights policies — are set to be tabled in July. And several NGOs, across the country, are working to ensure that the right changes required for children’s benefit are incorporated.

The National Campaign on Child Rights, a direct offshoot of this mission, was started by Save the Children and Pairavi, in association with voluntary bodies from 12 states. The aim of the campaign is undertaking initiatives to establish an agenda to eradicate child labour, literacy and child-centric policy to put into practise internationally accepted child rights.

Under consideration at the Calcutta workshop on June 23 were the bill and the act, particularly since there are three draft bills on the act and the government has not made its choice yet. Also on the table were recommendations by Asha Bajpai, a consultant for Save the Children and a faculty member at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, in Mumbai. Besides building a local perspective on both issues, the objective of the regional consultations included mobilisation of public opinion, networking with organisations, government representatives and individuals and facilitating the finalisation of the alternative bills on child labour and the commission.

The Calcutta group’s concerns included creating a time frame to set up the commission, cutting the red tape for the kids themselves to be heard, but more importantly, faster cooperation between the national and the state-level commissions, and procurement of funds for the rehabilitation of children. In addition, they wanted employment in private homes to also be considered as child labour.

As for the National Campaign on Child Rights, the primary aim is to increase the cut-off age from 14 to 18 years and to eradicate child labour in India within the next 10 years.

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