Official apathy leaves them in deplorable mess
Srinagar: Established under a Government of India (GoI) flagship anti-child labour programme, the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) is in a pathetic condition due to lack of support from the administration.
A visit to the majority of these schools, launched by the Ministry of Labour and Employment in Srinagar and Udhampur districts, reveals everything of how sorry a state they have been in since their inception back in 1998.
Around 11 schools were established under the scheme with an aim to reduce and rehabilitate the child labour force, besides providing vocational training to the rehabilitated children. Ironically, all these schools operate from rented single- or two-room residential accommodations in Srinagar with very poor infrastructure.
“Since many months, no supply of either mid-day meals or any other infrastructure has reached this school,” Laali, a helper at a child labour school in Mirak Shah Colony, Habbak, told Kashmir Reader. “Children that were enrolled here continued visiting this school weeks after supply was stopped but eventually they left, and we don’t know where they went since.”
Laali said that a teacher assigned to the locality visits the school and sits idle most of the time as hardly any child turns up. “Even my stipend has been withheld for many months by the department. The Labour Department has signalled that the school will be wound up even though there are a good number of child labourers in the locality,” the helper said, pointing to a group of children carrying logs to a nearby handsaw mill.
Shockingly, however, the Commissioner, Labour, Srinagar, Abdul Rashid, claims his department has nothing to do with these schools. “We don’t run any such schools,” he told Kashmir Reader.
NCLP rules say that the deputy commissioner of a district would be a chairman of the scheme and all other members of this committee would be from the Labour department. Even before Rashid took over as commissioner, Labour, officials from the same department were managing the affairs of these schools.
Former deputy commissioner Srinagar, Farooq Ahmad Lone admitted that it was the responsibility of DC office as well as Labour department to implement the scheme and manage the affairs of these schools. “In the current capacity, I won’t be able to comment on the issue,” he said.
In north-eastern Srinagar, are three child labour schools operating in the Tailbal area, which witnesses a huge percentage of the child labour work force that works in such as fields as fishing, timber trade, handicrafts and vegetable-selling besides other domestic works.
“These schools are running for the sake of engaging a teacher. Neither any incentive to students nor any stipend is given to helpers or house owners by the officials. The officials were seen on the day the school start and, apart from that, they would come back only occasionally. Every time we asked for our stipends, they would express helplessness,” said a house owner whose single-room accommodation is being used for a school in the Tailbal area.
Similar is the situation of other schools operating in places like Lasjan and Qamarwari areas where lack of official intervention has left the regular affairs of these schools in a complete mess for which there is apparently no one to take responsibility.
The NCLP, a major GoI scheme for the rehabilitation of child labour, seeks to adopt a sequential approach with a focus on rehabilitating children working in hazardous occupations and processes. Under the scheme, a survey of child labourers engaged in hazardous occupations and processes has to be carried out periodically, and the identified children are to be withdrawn from these occupations and put into special schools to enable them to be mainstreamed into the formal schooling system.
The scheme calls for the provision of non-formal/bridge education, skilled/vocational training, mid-day meal and a monthly stipend of Rs. 150 per child besides health-care facilities through a doctor appointed for a group of 20 schools.