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Target of eliminating child labour by 2007 unlikely to be achieved in State

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Divya Ramamurthi

There are nearly 60,000 child labourers in Bidar and Chamarajanagar districts

BANGALORE: Karnataka's plan to put a full stop to child labour in the State by 2007 could end as a dream unfulfilled, as there are nearly 60,000 child labourers in just two districts of Bidar and Chamarajanagar, according to a study by the Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC).

Interestingly, there has been no census of child labour for the past five years.

There are no official figures on child labour except for the Education Department's report on out-of-school children.

The study was done in 2001. It put the State's count of child labourers at 7,100, with their number in Bidar and Chamarajanagar districts at less than 1,000 each. "The number of child labourers in the State has gone up over the past few years. But, the numbers were never as low as the Education Department indicated.

It was undervalued to present the case that a lot of children were attending school," said S. Vidya, a social worker. A baseline study by ISEC for the International Labour Organisation's `Karnataka Child Labour Project,' found that 40,562 children in Bidar and 21,932 children in Chamarajanagar were working. The children were between the ages of 4 and 14. Officials of the Labour Department refused to comment on the findings of the study. An Additional Secretary of the Labour Department, however, said the department was rehabilitating child labourers in all districts. "We are not going by any survey. Wherever we find child labourers we are rescuing and rehabilitating them. It is a continuous process," the official pointed out.

To a question on whether the State could stick to the 2007 deadline for elimination of child labour, a department official said, "we are on our way to doing so."

Study findings

The findings of the ISEC study, which was presented before the State Project Advisory Committee, were based on surveys conducted in 32,000 households in eight villages and a few urban areas of these two districts.

The study showed that parents and children cited the need for additional income as the top criterion.

More than 50 per cent of child labourers said they worked to bring in more family income and more than 20 per cent of the child labourers revealed they worked to get their families out of debt. More than 30 per cent of parents interviewed said they sent the children to work because the family needed more income.

The study showed that 34 per cent of child labourers in Bidar and 30 per cent of child labourers in Chamarajanagar worked between 5 and 8 hours every day. Further, around 40 per cent of the child labourers in both districts worked in hazardous areas and carried heavy objects.

Many child labourers, more than 40 per cent from each district, were employed in the agricultural sector.

Twelve per cent of child labourers in Bidar were employed in livestock rearing and around 9 per cent in Chamarajanagar in the domestic sector, according to the study.

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