Census 2011 figures on child labour, released only in August 2014, showed that the number of children in labour had come down by 65 per cent, from 1.26 crore in 2001 to 43.53 lakh.
Census 2011 figures on child labour, released only in August 2014, showed that the number of children in labour had come down by 65 per cent, from 1.26 crore in 2001 to 43.53 lakh. This is not a reflection of the work done by authorities to reduce child labour, but a sleight of hand which artificially reduces numbers. The NGO, Child Rights and You (CRY), pointed out how numbers have been juggled to create this illusion.
According to CRY, the 2001 Census data of child labourers gave the complete picture, including main and marginal workers, whereas the 2011 data segregates children in labour into main workers and marginal workers (which has further been divided into children having worked for less than three months and 3-6 months). The figure, 43.53 lakh, includes only main workers and conveniently leaves out marginal workers, which were counted to be 43.50 lakh. So effectively, the total number of children in labour is 1.01 crore. This means that the number of children in labour has actually come down by 25 lakh, from 1.26 crore to 1.01 crore, in 10 years. This reduction stands at 20 per cent, as opposed to the 65 per cent being claimed, CRY pointed out. Further, as per the 2011 Census, there has been a jump of 37 per cent of working children in the age group of 5-9 years when compared with the 2001 census.
Rescuing and rehabilitating children in child labour is a complicated and arduous process. Amod Kanth, the founder of child rights NGO Prayas, said that when there is information about child labour, a rescue operation is organised which involves several departments — police, labour, the child welfare committee as also the sub-divisional magistrate.
This system is primarily based on a Delhi high court judgment in which respective roles for various agencies are defined, said Mr Kanth.
The police has to take action against employers and investigate crimes while the labour department has a role with regards to labour laws. After rescue, children are produced before the CWC, which is supposed to take action for their rehabilitation. The sub-divisional magistrate is empowered to certify children, within the provisions of the bonded labour act, which results in compensation for them — about Rs 25,000 — after which the child is sent home. An NGO organises the operation and takes care of the child. The governments of the state from where the child has been trafficked also play a role.
One such rescue operation was organised in Jahangirpuri, Delhi, which has a large number of units which employ between 300 and 500 children involved in prohibited work. The police, labour department, and child welfare committee was contacted by Prayas for this rescue operation in which 46 children were rescued from a bangle-making unit. “This is one of the series of rescue operations that Prayas has carried out, it must have conducted 1000s of rescues every year from places like Bengaluru, Jaipur, etc. This particular operation was the third in Jahangirpuri within a month,” said Mr Kanth.
In another incident in Jahangirpuri, four 10-year-olds escaped from another bangle-making unit and reached Prayas, where they exhorted the staff to rescue seven children who were still in the unit. The four had been made aware of Prayas by an unidentified man in the neighbourhood of the unit. As the Prayas team broke down the door, the children had been warned by the owner to sit silently inside the room. Despite a well-defined system for rescuing children involved in prohibited occupations and processes, the planned raids fail, said Prayas employee Mukesh Kumar. “It is only when we conduct surprise raids that we have had success,” he said. This is most likely due to leaks within the system, said Mr Kumar.
“When we liberate the children, they are invariably happy to get away from there. The problem is that they happen to be from a very poor background. When they go back to this background, the chances of their coming back to similar situations remain quite high,” said Mr Kanth.