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With a 509 Percent Increase in Child Labour Cases, Studies Suggest India Struggling to Cope With Crisis

By: Ghazanfar Abbas


Last Updated: June 28, 2019, 13:46 IST

Image for representation. (Reuters)

Image for representation. (Reuters)

The cases registered under CLPRA increased by 509 per cent in 2017, in all likelihood, due to amendments that were made in CLPRA in 2016 making child labour a cognizable offence.

While observing ‘World Day Against Child Labour 2019’ on June 12, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) called for immediate action to address the challenges in eliminating child labour by 2025 as per Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 set by United Nations. But the current situation in India suggests that despite taking several measures, the country is lagging behind in terms of how it is tackling this issue.

The latest research carried out by Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) run by Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, expressed serious concerns about child labour in the country.

The study observes an increase of 509 per cent in the number of cases registered under the child labour law in 2017. The primary data for the study was obtained through Right to Information (RTI) the First Information Report (FIRs) filed in Police stations across 14 states of Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

The study’s objective was to identify the gaps in the implementation of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 (CLPRA) and formulate recommendations to the government towards strengthening efforts.

Besides, a comparison between the data provided by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) across three years (2014 to 2016), the Census of India 2011 and Parliament questions and answers highlights the massive disparity which exists between the number of working children in India and the number of cases, including those registered and prosecuted.

Decreased Reporting of Child Labour

As compared to 2016, the cases registered under CLPRA increased by 509 per cent in 2017 probably due to amendments that were made in CLPRA in 2016 making child labour a cognizable offence. But a total of 1121 cases of child labour that were registered in 2017 in these 14 states means that only an average of three cases has been registered per district. Also, less than half of the cases (514 out of 1121) filed in 2017 were charge-sheeted. While the CLPRA cases under trial in 2017 increased by 270 per cent compared to 2016.

State-wise data also shows that Rajasthan (47 per cent) and Bihar (37 per cent) together contributed 84 per cent of the total cases registered under CLPRA in India during 2017. Interestingly, no case of child labour was registered in states of Haryana, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand in 2017.

The central government had strengthened its commitment for child labour free India by ratifying the two Core Conventions of ILO; Conventions 138 regarding admission of age to employment and Convention 182 regarding worst forms of child labour in June 2017. Despite this, NCRB does not report on the status of worst forms of child labour, therefore, no data is available regarding the same.

Till 2016 no child-friendly police stations and child-friendly courts were available in the 14 states. However, information available till August 2018 reveals that 728 child friendly police stations and 71 children friendly courts had been established in these 14 states. As of now, however, only heinous offences like child sexual abuse (offences under POCSO) are being tried in these courts and not the cases of child labour.

The total number of FIRs filed under CLPRA across India in the year 2014, 2015 and 2016 were 141, 251 and 204 respectively.

Rescue and Rehabilitation

The rescue data available with the Central government’s National Child Labour Project Scheme (NCLP) that maintains data of all states, indicates a high number of rescues. According to NCLP data, on an average 79,918 children were rescued/withdrawn from work from 2013-14 to 2015-16. On the other hand, the BBA rescued a total of 1151 children from situations of trafficking and bonded labour in 2017. Out of 1151 children rescued, 524 were recognized to be bonded labourers.

“Woefully, no attempt has been made by any state to either create a system for monitoring the release of relief and rehabilitation package to the rescued child labourer and child bonded labourer nor are there any plans to create a centralised database for such monitoring,” BBA’s study stateds.

The study found fallacies in NCLP’s design and operationalization that ends up condoning child labour in the country. Another concern the study found was huge delays of monetary compensation and the gaps in efficient delivery of rehabilitation measures.

With respect to the budgetary requirement, the estimated minimum budget requirement per year to rehabilitate and mainstream children rescued/withdrawn from labour under NCLP is Rs 160 Cr. However, only Rs 110.0 crore has been allocated under the scheme in 2018-19 budget. It was also found that the budget allocated for the rehabilitation of child labourers under NCLP is constantly on a decline. The budget has fallen by 31% in the past five years since 2014-15.

In the financial year 2014-15, Rs 175 crore was allocated that went up in 2015-16 when Rs 250 crore was allocated for a maximum of five years. In the last three financial years 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19, the budget allocated Rs 140 crore, Rs 160 crore and Rs 120 crore respectively.

As per Census of India 2011, 10.13 million (1.01 crore) children (5 to 14 years age group) among them 4.5 million are girls and 5.6 million boys, are engaged in labour. Comparing to rural and urban data, child labour is more prevalent in rural regions with 8.1 million (80 per cent) while 2 million in urban. Child labour most prevalent in five states— Uttar Pradesh (2.1million), Bihar (1.0 million), Rajasthan (0.84 million), Madhya Pradesh (0.7 million) and Maharashtra (0.72 million). In addition, more than 42.7 million children in India are out of school.

Latest ILO report indicates that there are 152 million child labourers in the world, thus, India alone accounts to 7 per cent of them.

Ministry of Labour and Employment had started PENCIL portal in 2017, for the redressal of child labour complaints. Currently, the portal gives out an estimate of 1,22,483 child labourers, who were identified and 66,600 who were enrolled and another 29,100 who were mainstreamed. That means around 24 per cent of children are being mainstreamed, i.e., are provided institutional, and financial rehabilitation.

Speaking to News18, Demographer and Social Scientist Dr Purujit Praharaj, Senior Research Fellow at KCSF said that as far as the issue is concerned very little is being done both by the Central and State Governments to achieve the 2025 goal.

“NCRB has not released any report since 2016. Though child labour is prevalent in all states, the cases are not getting registered. It is not just only the people don’t report the cases but agencies are also responsible because the industries who are hiring the children as labourers so definitely they will not come out to report,” Dr Praharaj said.