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Panel dozes off on child labour alert

The idea of a Jharkhand free of child labour by 2016 looks like a pipe dream, if the findings of the state and an NGO are anything to go by.

According to the state child department, about five lakh children are still working as helps in homes, restaurants, factories, garages and brick kilns, rocking the very foundations of the Jharkhand State Action Plan for Elimination of Child Labour (2012-2016), adopted last year on November 9.

Jharkhand Child Labour Commission that was constituted in 2002 is non-functional. Though it has as many as 22 members, half of its members skip meetings regularly.

In fact, the commission hardly holds any meeting. And, there are about 62 cases pending. The commission also runs a toll free number (18003456526) to register complaints. However, only 57 complaints were lodged in 2012.

Sanjay Mishra, a member of State Commission of Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR), admitted there were various lapses.

“Many cases are pending with the commission. In more than 100 cases, rescue teams had failed to initiate legal action against offenders and failed to recover Rs 20,000 from them in accordance with a Supreme Court order,” he said.

At the panchayat level, the register that is used to record the number of children released from work is usually not maintained.

Besides child labour, trafficking is another menace plaguing Jharkhand for long.

According to the state labour department, as many as 33,000 girls are trafficked every year from the state. Most of these victims are minors and illiterates.

Umesh Prasad Singh, the state joint labour commissioner, said there were around 186 National Child Labour Project (NCLP) schools with a total enrolment capacity of 12,000 across nine districts of the state.

“However, more than 50 such schools have been closed down due to funds crunch and dearth of teachers. More will follow if adequate funds aren’t allocated for running these cradles,” Singh said.

The joint commissioner added that the department has raid and rescue teams that frequently swoop in on places where child labour is spotted. “But there have been instances where we were given wrong tip-offs,” he said.

Officials of local NGO Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, which has been working in this field for a long time, agreed with SCPCT members.

“The major problem that we face after rescuing children is rehabilitation. The headless commission is not responsive and even the toll-free numbers also does not work at times,” said Pramod Kumar Verma, officer on special duty, Bhartiya Kisan Sangh.

He added that the NGO has started working on developing three child-friendly villages in Chanho and Torpa blocks in Ranchi district and Murhu block in Khunti. These villages will help them rehabilitate the rescued minors.

“We have formed a bal sangsad, introduced gardening and set up informal schools in these three villages,” said Verma.