| Activists at a rally in Bhubaneswar. Picture by Sanjib Mukherjee
Oct. 9: The first-ever non-political bandh to raise awareness on child labour issues evoked widespread response across Orissa today.
A network of 70 social and peoples’ organisations mobilised the support of people in the fight against child labour.
Today, the network, called Liberated Childhood Movement (LCM), organised sensitisation rallies at 58 sub-divisional towns across the state.
LCM chairperson Bikash Das explained: “Our appeal to the people is to take time off from routine work and participate in rallies and street meetings aimed at internalising the provisions of Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act. And the response was quite encouraging.”
“More than 2lakh people participated at all 58 locations across Bhubaneswar. The call also evoked spontaneous response in 40 other locations at the block levels,” added the LCM chief.
Das said: “There was unexpected response in Sonepur, where the people decided suo moto to observe a total bandh by keeping markets closed for over two hours. In Cuttack, schools in Athagarh, Badamba and Narsinghpur were kept closed and we saw active participation of sarpanchs.”
The response was equally strong in Angul, Kendrapada, Bhanjanagar, Rourkela, Phulbani, Koraput, Jeypore and Rayagada, he added.
More than 200 people, including children, formed a human chain at Master Canteen Square at the heart of the city. From there a rally proceeded to Rajpath via Ram Mandir to exhibition grounds. Participating in the rally, National convener of Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL) Ranjan Mohanty said a fresh census on child labour in Orissa had become imperative before formulating an effective policy for rehabilitation of the labourers.
“Every dropout is a potential labourer. If dropouts and those who don’t enrol at all are taken into account, then the scenario is dismal in the state,” said Mohanty. More than a 1,000 people took part in a rally in Cuttack. In 2003, the State Labour Institute had conducted a survey across 12 districts to find over 2.77lakh children engaged in labour. There were also evidences of some 86,062 children who held hazardous posts in ill paying jobs in the 12 districts which included Khurda, Puri, Dhenkanal, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara and Nayagarh. The survey, however, didn’t include children working in fields or in the forests.