November 22, 2019
CWC helps rehabilitate child labourers, unites them with their families and convinces parents to send them to school. An official said that mostly children from north India are found working here.
The Child Welfare Committee (CWC) a five-member panel under the Department of Social Defence established in December 2018 works for the care and protection of children below 18 years of age in several spheres. CWC’s Coimbatore chapter explains how it controls child labour particularly in jewellery manufacturing units of the city.
M Sachidanandam, a CWC member tells The Covai Post, “Even though child labour is tackled by separate laws and government departments, our help is needed to rehabilitate these children. It is tragic to see children being employed in industrial units often with parental consent. We have dealt with nearly 162 cases from December 2018 to July 2019. So child labour ranks second highest after missing children in our list of child atrocities in Coimbatore.”
This practice continues despite Article 19 of United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC), Section 79 of the Juvenile Justice (JJ) act and Right to Education (RTE) act, that categorically order children below 18 years to be in school during morning hours. “Employers or parents violating these rules are punishable with five years of rigorous imprisonment and Rs.1 lakh fine,” says Sachidanandam.
How does CWC help? “We have worked with government labour department to prepare a standard operating procedure (SOP) for these children. We study a government certified minimum wages list for different vocations and make employers pay the child’s wages for the time they worked. Then we reunite them with their families and counsel parents to send them to school. We also follow up their activities for some time, until the child is properly reintegrated into school. Some parents will claim that their children cannot cope with school. We then advise them to take up vocational training or skill development. Here also we refer them to our organisations and make sure of proper coaching and stipends,” he says.
So where are these children from? “Very few are from Coimbatore. Most of them are from northern states like Bihar, Odisha, UP, MP, Jharkhand, Assam, Gujarat and Rajasthan and even Nepal. Even last night we rescued four children from Rajasthan in a local train. These children are found during periodic raids conducted by Coimbatore police department, the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) workers and Childline organisation at factories here. Other children are stowaways on trains but the railway police are very alert. They have not missed one child, but what puzzles us is that these children bypassed similar police checks at their native places. Nearly 15-20 children are found in trains daily,” says Sachidanandam.
He adds, “We feel that many north Indian states lack awareness of children’s rights to education and a carefree childhood. Also, many parents are unaware of laws and punishments and work the child for supplementary income. So they have to realise the seriousness of violating the JJ and RTE act. If that happens maybe child labour may decrease.”