From hand-rolling beedis and toiling at construction sites, children from the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) schools have come a long way. On Tuesday, students from these special schools across the State presented cultural programmes as part of the Children's Day celebration organised by the State Child Labour Rehabilitation-cum-Welfare Society.

Labour Minister T. M. Anbarasan announced the launch of a State-wide campaign next month to create public awareness and eradicate child labour. The campaign will be carried out in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation, and students from government schools across the State would be part of it.

He said that stringent measures are taken by the government to abolish child labour. “In the last four-and-a-half years, around Rs.75 lakh has been collected as fine and legal action has been taken against 1,023 defaulters who employed children in industries, hotels and households. Employment of children would be completely abolished by 2012,” he said.

Elocution, essay and drawing competitions were conducted in NCLP schools in 17 districts.

The winners from every district were presented a cash prize of Rs.1,000 and a copy of the Thirukkural. Felicitating the winners, Mayor M. Subramanian said that the Chennai Corporation has rehabilitated orphan children from the roadside. Night shelters have been provided to more than 120 children and many of them have joined regular schools, he said.

Students from Dharmapuri district narrated their stories through puppets emphasising the need to abolish child labour, while the Vellore group danced to the tunes of folk songs. Vidyasagar Ramamurthy, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF; Prabhakar Rao, Principal Secretary, Labour and Employment Department; Hansraj Varma, Commissioner of Labour and T.M. Jawaharlal, Secretary, Employers Federation of South India participated.