Child labour victims, family members share their woes

A mix of socio-economic and cultural factors and lack of administrative will has been pushing children in the coastal areas to newer hazardous zones of child labour like sea food processing and saltpan units.

Child labour victims and their family members shared most of their woes at a public hearing in Ramanathapuram on Saturday. The hearing was based on a study conducted in 90 villages in Kadaladi, Tiruppullani and Mandapam coastal areas.

The jury consisted of Sudha Ramalingam, senior advocate, Madras High Court, Henri Tiphagne, state representative, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, B. Parthasarathy, former principal, Mannar Tirumalai Naicker College, and senior journalist, P. Thirumalai. Members of education department were also present in the hearing.

The jury found that lack of transport facilities a major reason behind the dropouts as they had to travel long distances with no bus facilities, they either have to depend on share autos or vans for which they have to spend Rs.20 every day. Most of these villages studied only have elementary schools within their villages and for other levels they have to leave the village and this has resulted in girls dropping out in huge numbers.

Gender discrimination was also found where girl child had to sacrifice her education in the family so that the male heir gets education.

The findings of the jury include inadequate toilet facilities and safe drinking water within the school premises in a lot of schools, insufficient teachers and corporal punishment in many of the schools and non-implementation of Right to Education Act guidelines.

Socio-economic problems like loss of livelihood and economic deprivation due to lack of State patronage for the palm industry is another major reason for the school dropouts as the parents are pushed towards making the children contribute to the family’s earning.

Earlier in the day, Ramanathapuram MLA, M.H.Jawahirullah, after inaugurating the public hearing, said that childhood is the most important period in any human’s life and lost childhood can never be retrieved, the innocence of that part of life is indispensable in the making of an individual.

The MLA called upon all the members of the society to come forward and strive for the complete eradication of child labour and also demanded that necessary changes should be brought in the legal definition of child labour where the age criteria should be increased to 18 years.

M. Ramasubramani, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ramanathapuram Range, in his special address said that as far as Tamil Nadu is concerned there was always a great concern for children and the noon meal schemes; nutritious meal schemes, free bicycle and free laptop schemes which emerged here exemplify that concern.

It was organised jointly by two non-governmental organisations, Rural Workers Development Society and Child Relief and You.

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