Over the last decade, successive governments in the State have vowed to eliminate child labour by setting several deadlines, only to extend them. However, a survey being carried out by the Labour Department has found that the maximum number of child labourers in the State are concentrated in Bangalore.
During a recent raid carried out by officials in Bangalore, around 50 children who should have ideally been in school and living under the care of their parents, were found crammed into a small room near K.R. Market, making gunny bags. Labour Department officials said this is just the tip of the iceberg.
The ongoing survey, whose findings were shared with The Hindu , reveals that there are at least 11,500 child labourers in Bangalore Urban district. The numbers, however, may change when the survey is completed in the coming months. Currently, the number of child labourers in the State has been estimated at 45,669.
“These figures have been calculated by compiling the number of dropouts. The survey is part of the action plan to eliminate child labour by implementing the National and State Child Labour Projects,” an official said.
While Bangalore Urban is at the top of the table with the highest number of child labourers, Gulbarga, Haveri, Raichur and Bellary districts also have a high number of child labourers, while Udupi, Shimoga and Hassan districts have the least.
A department official said that while isolated cases of child labour could be found around market places and in restaurants, a large number of children were employed in industries that were “invisible”. Many of them were found to be from migrant families. On Poornaiah Chetram Road, Balepet Cross, a large number of children of labourers hailing from Raichur district and Adoni (Kurnool district) in Andhra Pradesh, said that they were working to supplement their family’s income.
A 12-year-old-girl who was standing in a playground surrounded by makeshift tents where the families live, said she and seven other children “remove wires from boxes” at a shop nearby. When probed further, she said, “I don’t know what we do. We go there because we get Rs. 100 for removing wires from the boxes.” She said they work from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Her father, who was initially hesitant to admit that his daughter works, later said, “I have no choice but to send her for work. We earn very little by sell winnows and brooms. We have loans to repay and… the children do not have any work here… but when we go back, we will put them back in school.”
Poor conviction rate
Notwithstanding the government’s professed commitment to eliminating child labour, Labour Department officials said there were several hurdles in convicting those who employ children.
In 2010-11, 479 such employers were prosecuted across the State and 112 were convicted. In 2011-12, 316 prosecution proceedings were filed and 77 were convicted. However, in 2012-13, 25 prosecutions proceedings were filed and 18 employers were convicted.