Growing urbanisation has brought a larger number of migrant populations from Northern States and other parts of countries to Delhi. Delhi in last two decades has changed significantly in terms of infrastructure development and civic amenities. This has also attracted a larger number of children for coming to Delhi in hope of getting good job and to earn money.
It has been conservatively estimated by Government that around 1 lakh children working at different location in Delhi but the estimate by civil society organisation is about 5 lakh children working in various hazardous jobs across the state. While rescue and rehabilitation of these children are extremely difficult as it need involvement of various stakeholders in the rescue operation.
Child Labour profile in Delhi is of two types (NCPCR 2010)
(i) Out-of-school children living with their parents and
(ii) Children who have come from other States without their families
Hence, the Delhi Action Plan for total abolition of child labour would have two strategies. The first strategy is an ‘area-based approach’ for elimination of child labour. Under this strategy, all children in the age group 6-14 years in an identified area will be covered, whether they are in school or out-of-school. All out-of-school children would be regarded as engaged in some form of work and being deprived of their right to education. Children in schools are to be monitored so that they do not drop out and join the labour pool.
According to the estimate (NCPCR 2010), Delhi has 28319471 children in the age group 6 to 13 years, of whom 2747523 are school going and 43735 (3.34%) are out-of-school. The survey conducted by Samajika Suvidha Sangam (Mission Convergence Directorate) found that out of 643315 children in the age group 7-17 years of where 450402 of them are not in schools. According to Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the number of out-of-school children in the age group 6-14 years in North West District was 7219 (whereas the door-to-door survey conducted by NCPCR in 9 slums of Jahangirpuri was 2929.
Perhaps this discrepancy in data is due to the fact that names of children who are out-of-school and school dropouts may be continuing in the attendance registers as enrolled. All such out-of-school children are to be considered as child labourers or potential child labourers who would sooner or later join the labour pool.
Under this background, an affidavit has been submitted by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) before the Delhi High Court seeking directions to Government authorities on the issue of child labour. Informing the court that rescued children were not being properly rehabilitated, the NCPCR, in its affidavit, stated, "There is no guarantee that all rescued child labourers have been successfully restored to their families in the source states. This is evident from a study of 22 rescued child labourers in which the families of three are not traceable and the addresses of four children were wrong."
The affidavit was filed to inform the Court about the steps taken by the government after a slew of directions were given by the high court for the rescue and rehabilitation of child labourers in the city. The high court had, in 2009, passed a detailed order which modified the existing provisions for better rehabilitation of child labourers. It had given Delhi Police extra powers, which were earlier with the labour department, to effectively eradicate the problem.
The Commission proposed an ‘area-based approach’ to be initiated as a pilot in the North-West district. The action plan for abolition of child labour formulated by NCPCR was accepted by Honorable High Court. The Court has issued an order dated July 15, 2009 with a clear role and responsibility of different allied system and helping them in areas of convergence.
The action plan has helped CHILDLINE team immensely to identify, plan and conduct rescue across Delhi. It has also helped in restoration and rehabilitation of these children through ensuring the role of state government in concerned states.
In last two years, CHILDLINE Delhi rescued more than 500 children. In the year 2010-2011, CHILDLINE 1098 received 696 cases reporting child labour at different locations. While the judgment has developed a way forward in case of child labour it has also left various question unanswered. The judgment directs the Government of Delhi to create various structures like to address the issue of child labour in district and state level.
In light of the judgment, the District Level Task Force was formed to handle Child labour cases and CHILDLINE is a regular participant sharing its concern about child labour. CHILDLINE participation in these forums has also steered various important discussions. In the last two years CHILDLINE have received most difficult cases with complexity involved in it. The team has developed a cohesive relationship with district administration for handling cases of labour.
Though the District Level Committee has been formed but the State Level Steering Committee on Child labour is still not exists. In absence of the said committee at state level it has not been possible to take forward unresolved issues for redressal at the district level. CHILDLINE Delhi witnessed an average delay more than a month in each rescue cases. Most difficult situation arise when child labourer is physical abused and CHILDLINE has to conduct the rescue on urgency without labour department which has been questioned by Department of Labour and Child Welfare Committee (CWC).
The quality of First Information Report (FIR) filed was also questionable as it does not include requisite section and law as per the merit of case which makes the case weaker during prosecution. Filing of First Information Report (FIR) has been also been an issue of concern as the Action Plan mandates the Police to file FIR in cases of Child labour under specific section of JJ Act, CLPRA, and IPC.
CHILDLINE data on child labour rescue shows that FIRs have been filed in less than 40% cases of Child Labour and bonded child labour apart from relevant section of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000 and Indian Penal Code, 1860. In all cases of Child Labour received by CHILDLINE more than 90% children were from other states and were trafficked by agents for labour to Delhi. As a process FIR should also include the name of traffickers who have brought these children. There definitely has to be punitive action against the traffickers.
Implementation of the Judgment, M C Mehta Vs State of Tamil Nadu and Others: The greatest challenge at present is the implementation of the judgment. The child labour welfare funds were constituted after the judgments but mechanisms to provide relief and compensation to the survivors of child labour has yet not been operationalised.Children are being rescued and restored but the amount received as recovery from the employer as well as the government share of Rs 5000 per child going to this fund is not contributing in any way to the rehabilitation of the child.
Delhi Action Plan on abolition of child labour exhibits specific role and responsibility of labour, Police, NGOs and WCD department which includes filling of challans, specific sections and acts of different laws and coordination mechanisms. It is crucial that there is a need to organise regular training with these stakeholders which includes better role clarity, experience. Instead of all these exercises CHILDLINE Delhi is still fighting hard with administration for conducting rescue for more than 120 cases alone pending in South Delhi.
Sumit Kumar is currently working as Programme Coordinator with North Regional Resource Centre (NRRC), CIF