Madhya Pradesh sees alarming increase in child labour

Bhopal – There has been an alarming rise in the incidence of child labour in Madhya Pradesh, says a report by a child rights organisation.
The report released by the Haq Centre for Child Rights puts the number of child labourers in the state at 1,065,259. Of the 1,700 cases registered under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986, there have been only 35 convictions, according to the report.
‘The state’s labour laws prohibit the employment of children below the age of 14 in factories, mines and hazardous employments and to regulate the working conditions of children in other employments,’ a source said.
R.K. Sharma, a social activist from Centre For Advocacy, said: ‘Walk through any lane in the towns and cities of the state, including the state capital Bhopal, and you will see a number of child labourers working in various hotels, restaurants, tea stalls, welding shops and mechanic shops.
‘If we can see them, why can’t the labour department officials and those in the government see them?’
He pointed out ‘a major problem is that officials do not consider employment of children below 14 years of age in a hotel or a restaurant as child labour’.
Sharma claimed that the state government had completely failed in checking child labour. ‘Examples of child labour can be seen even in hotels, which are a stone’s throw from the chief minister’s house, the state secretariat or even at the shops outside the state police head quarters.’
Several schemes, like the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the mid-day meal scheme, were started with the prime objective of checking child labour and attracting children to schools. But they have been able to achieve little.
‘A state government survey, conducted before the launch of these drives, put the number of dropouts at primary school level at 428,000. The state, in April, also conducted a weeklong campaign – with rallies, art exhibitions and plays – to woo dropouts back to school. But the number of drop outs remain more or less the same,’ said sources in the education department.
‘The situation in Madhya Pradesh is going from bad to worse’, said Archana Sahay of Samarthan – an NGO working for the cause of child labourers here.
The State Labour Minister Jagdeesh Deora, however, felt otherwise and said the government was running several projects towards the cause.
‘We are also seeking help from non-government organisations in eradicating child labour. The labour department too is taking strict action against those who force children to work.’

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