The whiff of mass trafficking of minors from Godda and Jamtara districts of Jharkhand to orphanages in Kerala spurred the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights to renew its commitment to fight child labour and the government to announce poverty-buster schemes at a meeting in Ranchi on Thursday.
The multi-stakeholder deliberation at Chambers Bhavan, which nailed abject poverty as the glaring cause behind rural or urban slum children being so vulnerable to human trade, also marked the World Day Against Child Labour as declared by the International Labour Organisation in 2002.
Speaking at the meeting, organised in association with Unicef, state labour minister K.N. Tripathy underscored that curing economic handicaps was the stepping stone to a successful battle against abuse of children in various ways. “We have introduced two new schemes with immediate effect that will go a long way in addressing the problem,” he said.
One scheme promises medical aid up to Rs 1.5 lakh for a worker suffering from a serious ailment. The other says the state would deposit Rs 5,000 in the name every girl child. “The amount would multiply to Rs 1 lakh by the time she attains marriageable age,” the minister said, reiterating that penury drove most families to send children to work.
Job Zachariah, the Jharkhand head of Unicef, echoed the minister. “Not mere enrolment in schools, but ensuring attendance of children can end many social maladies, including child labour and child marriage,” he said.
One positive sign, Zachariah claimed, was that the number of child workers had come down. “The 2001 Census had put the state figure at around 4 lakh; the annual health survey in 2012 registered a drop by 2 lakh. Most children are employed in unorganised sectors like roadside eateries, garages and homes,” he said.
The Unicef official also mooted active “child protection committees” at village level and proper implementation of poverty alleviation schemes.
Member of SCPCR Sunita Katyayan emphasised on “rescue and rehabilitation” of child workers while commission chairperson Roop Laxmi Munda urged reporting of child labour cases. “Do not patronise eateries that employ little children,” she appealed.