20 Mar 2010

Child Labour and the CHILDLINE experience of reaching out

The number of cases where CHILDLINE teams have heard about the existence of child labour and gone to rescue the children has been on rise in the last few years. For instance, in Mumbai Western suburbs where CIF directly manages the CHILDLINE intervention unit, from July to December 2008, the CHILDLINE team handled 146 cases of child labour. A large number of cases are related to children working in restaurants and small dhabas. The calls are mostly from concerned adults who call up CHILDLINE.

We play the role of a catalyst for child protection by facilitating the work of CHILDLINE across the country. The maximum numbers of calls received are related to the issue of Child Labour; though the total number of cases do not always get documented as the cases of child labour. For instance, when a child labour calls for medical assistance, sometimes the CHILDLINE team classifies the calls as the call for medical assistance, even though they might have helped them for their basic condition.

When the CHILDLINE team receives a call regarding a child worker in abusive condition, the CHILDLINE meets with the caller/child to assess the situation. CIF's primary objective and policy is to withdraw the children from employment. However, the intervention in each case is based on best interest of the child. CHILDLINE is regularly in touch with the labour department and police. At the time of raids, the CHILDLINE team goes with the officers from the labour commissioners, and most of the times also with Police. The FIR is filed by the labour commissioner. The CHILDLINE team is with the children through the process of rescue and then the children are produced before the Child Welfare Committee(CWC). An important goal is also to acquire compensation for the children, which is given in the form of National Savings Certificate. In many cases, the CHILDLINE team on advice of the CWC goes to the source villages to counsel the parents about continuing the child's education.

In the work of CHILDLINE we have felt that unless the society at large becomes sensitive to the issue of employing child labour and takes their right to childhood seriously, there will always be justification - in the name of poverty and lack of educational facilities – for their involvement in the economic activities.

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