Srinagar: Dearth of staff and financial resources has slowed down the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) in Jammu & Kashmir. Official sources told Kashmir Reader that the scheme, launched to eradicate child labour across India, is being given “step motherly” treatment by higher officials. The project society that oversees the scheme sent requests for more teachers for labour schools, increment in monthly stipend to children enrolled at these schools, and funds to meet the expenditure of staff, but received no response.
“Our files are biting dust either in our own office or in the deputy commissioner’s (of Srinagar). A file regarding selection of teachers for child-labour schools, which needed approval from the DC (Deputy Commissioner), was misplaced more than five times. We had to prepare the entire file all over again and send it again to the DC office. It has been more than a year now but the file is still pending,” said an insider in the state labour department.
Similar was the fate of recommendations that the project society made to higher officials for changes to be made in the NCLP to make it more effective. “Our suggestions were thrown into dustbin,” said the labour official. “We had seen a trend in our (child labour) schools that after we rehabilitate a child, the child stopped coming to school after a certain period. The main reason behind this was that besides vocational education, the children also needed a stipend to support either their personal or household needs.”
Under the NCLP, ten helpers are employed to manage the affairs of a child-labour school. In J&K, only four of them are being paid the due stipend, which is of between Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,000 a month. The rest six are without stipends from the last more than three years.
The Deputy Labour Commissioner, who is also member-secretary to the NCLP, said he was holding additional charge of the scheme and he did not know much about it.
One of the programme managers of the NCLP, wishing anonymity, told Kashmir Reader that there is yet hope that the deputy commissioner will approve the pending files, enabling the scheme to move forward in the right direction.
“As there was a reshuffle in the administration, we could not raise the issues pertaining to the scheme. Now that a new deputy commissioner has taken over in Srinagar, we are hopeful that we will receive a good response from his office,” said the officer.
The New-Delhi sponsored scheme was extended to Srinagar and Udhampur districts in 1996. Currently, about 100 children are being provided education under NCLP in ten schools in different areas of Srinagar.
Pertinently, questions have been raised over technicalities in child labour laws, like the necessity of establishing that a father and son are sharing an employee-employer relation, and no action being permitted against those employing child labour at home, for the reason that it could involve breach of privacy.