Denied childhood

The tall claims of the authorities notwithstanding, child labour continues in Jammu Kashmir unabated. As per data furnished by the state labour department, during the year 2009-10, a total of 3949  child  labour cases  were identified out of which  only 5 cases were selected for prosecution. During the year 2010-11, the department found 2868 cases and initiated legal action in 35. Likewise during the year 2011-12 against 4331 identified cases, prosecution was initiated in only 13 cases. In the year 2012-13, the department found 3423 such cases and initiated action against just 22, while from April 2013 till date, the department identified more than 1200 such cases and only a couple  of cases were  brought in the court of law. As per experts, the reason behind poor enforcement is the lack of coordination among concerned government departments which allow the offenders to escape the punishment.  It  has found that even law makers employ children in their homes as domestic helpers. The child labour is prohibited in the state under Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act. According to the law, anyone found employing a child below the age of 14 has to face a jail term up to two years and a maximum fine of Rs 20,000. Pertinently, as per a survey conducted by an NGO in 2009, Jammu and Kashmir State has over three lakh children working under the age of 14 and nearly 34 per cent of child laborers have only received a fifth-grade education and only 66 per cent have studied up to the eighth grade.  The study also stated that 9.2 per cent of child laborers are   5 to  10 years old, while 90 per cent of them fall in the age group of  11 to 14.  The survey further reveals that more than 80 per cent of the child workforce comes from families with 6 to 10 members and 15 percent from families having 11 to 15 members. It further says that over 61 percent of parents of child laborers are   illiterate.  The campaign for eradication of the menace should not be confined to slogans alone. The government must take tangible measures to protect the rights of children.