90 organisations join to end child labour in Karnataka

February 23rd, 2009 - 12:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Feb 23 (IANS) In a first of its kind attempt in the country, 90 civil society organisations across Karnataka have joined hands to end rampant child labour in the state.
The Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL), a nation-wide network to eliminate child labour, took the lead in launching the initiative.

The Civil Society Initiatives for Elimination of Child Labour was launched in August 2008.

“The aim of the exercise is to educate and involve society through various civilian groups about the scourge of child labour. In a way we want to involve the entire society in eradicating the inhuman practice of engaging child labour in various sectors,” V. Susheela, convener of the Karnataka chapter of CACL, told IANS.

“Our latest initiative has borne positive results as 90 civil society groups have become members of our campaign in the past seven months. These groups are working in tandem in stopping children from being employed in various sectors across the state. The civil society groups are also involved in advocacy and opinion building against child labour,” Susheela added.

Some of the civil society groups which have joined hands with CACL are Bangalore Hotel Owners’ Association, Federation of Karnataka State Lorry Owners’ Association, Karnataka Truck Owners’ Association, and various trade unions including the Karnataka Beedi Workers’ Union.

The CACL initiative has the support of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Karnataka Child Labour Project.

On the impact of the initiative so far, Susheela said, “It is sure to enlighten civil society that the practice of child labour is unlawful and it will help in the rescue and rehabilitation of poor children working as domestic helps in homes, garages and hotels.

“Most people are not aware that employing children as labourers is unlawful. The issue of child labour is very complex, as in most cases parents themselves deny their child is working. Thus it takes a lot of time to rescue children from the clutches of their employers. But we’re working and hope to achieve good results soon,” said Susheela.

According to the 2001 census, there were 12.59 million child workers in India. Karnataka had 823,000 child labourers. Uttar Pradesh topped the chart with 1,927,997 of child labourers, followed by Andhra Pradesh where 1,363,339 children were found working.

“Our very first target of involving civil society groups is to reduce the number of child labourers in Karnataka. This can happen only when new recruitment stops. Awareness on not recruiting children as workers could be easily spread through civil society groups,” said Mahindra Rajaram, consultant of the advocacy wing of CACL.

“Whenever we have approached any groups, we have got positive feedback from them. If we could sustain our work, we are sure to bring some positive results in the coming years,” he added.

However, Rajaram said that since child labour was a complex issue and directly linked to poverty, it would take some time to bring tangible results.

“Figures regarding child labour are also conflicting. Figures from NGOs differ hugely from government data,” he noted.

“Exact figures of child labour of any place is hard to provide,” said Rajaram.

According to a recent CACL survey, Karnataka has 400,000 child labourers, whereas the state government’s labour department puts the figure at just 85,000.

Child rights activists estimate that currently there are 50 million child labourers in India, though it was banned more than two years ago.

The notification on prohibition of employment of children as domestic help and in restaurants or roadside ‘dhabas’ (eateries) came into effect on Oct 10, 2006. Violators face jail for up to two years and a fine of Rs.20,000 (about $420).

According to the 7th All India Education Survey, done last in 2002, 50 percent of Indian children aged 6-18 do not go to school and most of them are engaged in one or other profession, making them child labourers.

As per the child rights charter, a universal definition of “child” includes all persons under the age of 18.

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