Saturday, August 19, 2006

Child labour: Government scheme fails in Firozabad

Child labour: Government scheme fails in Firozabad

Sutapa Deb NDTV 24X7

Saturday, August 19, 2006 (Firozabad):

It is nearly two decades since the Centre banned child labour in Firozabad's bangle and glassware industry. It went beyond framing a law by intervening when it launched an ambitious national child labour project. The idea was to rehabilitate the thousands of children who had now been plucked out of factories. But when NDTV revisited the working class neighbourhoods we found a wide gap between the way the scheme was conceived and the way it was managed. round 114 special child labour schools were set up under the national child labour project in the bangle making district 18 years ago. The schools for 50 students each were meant to meet the special needs of the working children, offering non formal education till class V, stipends, midday meals, free books, and pre-vocational training.

Utter mismanagement

But nearly two decades later the schools are special only in name. Set up in dreary quarters, there is only a single room to accommodate 50 children who are at different levels.

There is no furniture, no modern teaching materials and purposeful prevocational training. And though the children are required to pack in five years of education in three years, there is no intensive coaching.

The management says the schools are unable to attract good teachers because the salaries for teachers are fixed at 1,500 rupees a month three years ago.

"We were not taught the basics. Instead of learning alphabets we were asked to tackle words and meanings," said Asif, a child labour.

Some families are opting for private schools even though they pay for education there.

There are also complaints that the Rs 100 a month stipend scheme is being mismanaged. The payments are random and irregular.

The national child labour project has also failed to promote income generation for parents of child labour. In Bhim Nagar we meet Rajju, who after her husband's death, barely manages to earn Rs 60 a day with the help of her two children.

"I am in distress. With great difficulty I manage to get food to eat. If I get work I do it, otherwise I just sit. I have to marry off my girl also," said Rajju.

Children continue to work

A few houses away is 12-year-old Sonu who has a dysfunctional family. Sonu is paid Rs 3 for joining 300 bangles.

So low are the piece rates set by factory owners that only when two adults and two children work that the family manages Rs 3,000 a month.

The irony is that almost each child at these child labour schools continues to work.

These schools are run with crores of funds given by India's ministry of labour and the US dept of labour.

It is just one of the many schemes launched by different government departments like health, women and child development, social welfare and tribal welfare.

The neglect of this important child labour project shows that no sincere attempt has been made to either integrate all the schemes or provide quality.

It is disturbing that not a single child labour school can be considered as successful on all parameters.


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