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Pledge against child labour

- CM unveils action plan, sets 2016 deadline

Ranchi, Nov. 9: Jharkhand resolved to eradicate child labour within the next four years with chief minister Arjun Munda unveiling a comprehensive plan today to eliminate the scourge that has victimised over 4.07 lakh youngsters slogging as ragpickers or errand boys at homes, dhabas or roadside garages.

The ambitious goal will be pursued by various departments of the state government in conjunction with International Labour Organisation (ILO) by assigning specific roles at various levels of the administration and integrating their functioning towards achieving the objective by 2016.

“We have to ensure that today’s function does not remain a formality and it gets implemented in toto,” Munda said while unveiling the action plan that aims to tackle head-on a problem that tends to get even more complex for Jharkhand and other empowered action group (EAG) states like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

These states, brought under EAG by the ministry of health & family welfare after the 2001 census to stabilise population, have a significant number of poor tribals who are vulnerable to child labour and trafficking.

According to data available with the state, over 33,000 girls are trafficked from Jharkhand each year. Most are below 18 and either illiterate or semi-literate. They are usually forced to work in households, restaurants or factories if they are lucky. Otherwise they end up in brothels.

This apart, the most prevalent form of abuse is in the form of child labour, wherein boys and girls below 14 are made to work in hotels and dhabas, at homes as domestic helps and as labourers in brick kilns, bidi factories, mines, garages, automobile workshops, construction sites, stone crushing units etc.

Jharkhand proposes to constitute advisory and monitoring committees at various levels. While a state-level advisory committee (SLAC) would be chaired by the chief minister, the corresponding monitoring committee (SLMC) would be headed by the development commissioner.

The advisory committee would meet twice a year to review implementation of the action plan and suggest improvements. But, the monitoring committee would meet at least four times a year.

District-level monitoring committees would be chaired by deputy commissioners and block-level monitoring committees by BDOs.

The action plan also defines roles of various government departments. While the state labour, employment and training department would conduct a survey to identify child labourers and raid workplaces and business establishments, the HRD department would ensure free education to rescued children under 14.

The plan also includes effective use of various laws to prevent child labour like Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 and Right to Education Act, 2010.

Rescue teams, with legal teeth to rescue children and act against their employers, would be constituted in each district. These teams would comprise NGO representatives, doctors, counsellors and officials from departments of labour, police, child welfare and municipal bodies or panchayats.

Rescued children would have to be enrolled into non-formal educational programmes at anganwadi centres, NCLP (National Child Labour Project) special schools, Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) bridge schools or at government schools. The children may also be involved in vocational training.

Munda asked those present at today’s launch of the action plan, especially government officials, to disseminate information at the village level. “Similar programmes should be organised at the panchayat, block and district levels so that more and more people get to know of the rules and regulations designed to prevent child labour,” he said.

Among those present at the function were development commissioner Debashish Gupta, labour department principal secretary Vishnu Kumar, labour commissioner Sunil Kumar Burnwal and senior ILO representatives P. Bonpata and Preet Verma.