Featured Post

Trust: Missing in action where it counts

Whom do you trust? That's a big, loaded question. And at least one organisation has been putting out a Trust Barometer for 14 years now...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Lost innocence

The government has recently banned children below the age of 14 from working in the hospitality industry and as domestic help. But, as early as 2001, a constitutional amendment passed guaranteeing education to all children under 14 is yet to be implemented. But Raj Mangal Prasad, who is Vice President of the NGO Pratidhi called this a cosmetic step.

He explains why he said this because he felt that steps needed to be taken to improve the infrastructure, education prospects for these children as well as provide their parents with an alternative source of income. He feels the ban should have been the final step and not the first one and so late in the day.

On the other hand, International Labour Organisation, ILO, Director Leyla Tegmo-Reddy says that this is a positive first step and that registration and monitoring will come as a natural corollary to this ban. She says that on the question of rehabilitating these kids, there is the "Child Labour Project in 250 districts (in addition to the 150 now added by the Labour Ministry). There is 'Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan', which provides education to children under 14. Sometimes, people don't know about these schemes but we need to develop better safety nets."

Also on children being banned from working in hotels, tea stalls, dabbhas, this has always been the case, says Indian Hotels and Restaurants Association, Honorary Treasurer Santosh Shetty because he says they have always been governed by the Shop and Establishment Law in Mumbai. But he told CNBC-TV18, "The new law will prosecute the employer and that is grossly unfair. We do send them to school. We make them work only six hours a day and we don't make them work at night."

Reddy explains that rehabilitation can be done through "resident welfare associations, we can do some advocacy, some training. I think we should be working in schools, where middle class or upper middle class children can make very good advocates. We can work with teachers and the media but there must be a very constructive approach to this issue."

She says that going back to the drawing board and starting over is not an option and that people have as the situation of these kids is quite bad - they work long hours sometimes in hazardous jobs. So, to get started somewhere is the idea and then beefing up programmes for these children's rehabilitation will have to be undertaken with seriousness.

Though, Prasad says that unless the government leads by example and uses its resources to set the ball rolling - to rescue underprivileged children from working and putting them into schools - this ban will only remain a pipedream. And as a example, he points out that, even though government officials are banned from employing children as domestic help in their homes, one has to only go to a government colony and see for themselves, that a lot of children still continue to be employed in their homes! So, why should this ban, change anything at all? He may just have a point here.

Written for www.moneycontrol.com

No comments: