Tamil Nadu

Rehabilitation process of rescued child labourers hit for want of funds

The identification of child labourers and rehabilitation process of over 3,800 children rescued from child labour, who are studying in over 200 special schools under the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) in Tamil Nadu, has been severely affected, for want of funds from the Union Labour Ministry.

Additionally, as of today, if a child is rescued from child labour, he/she cannot be admitted into these schools.

As of last month, a total of 3,861 children rescued from child labour across the State were studying in 213 special schools, serving as ‘bridge schools’, and for many of these children in various districts, the monthly stipend of ₹400 have not been paid. A total of 724 staff, including educational instructors, have been were working, but have not been paid for many months now. In addition, they are forced to pay the rent for the building, where many of these special schools function.

“The special schools are in a critical stage now without funds and the rehabilitation process is severely affected because field staff and building owners want their salaries and rent, which has been pending for months. In many schools, parents are questioning the instructors about the stipend and suspect whether we have taken the money. They ask how you all can be employed without salaries for these many months,” said a Project Director requesting anonymity. The project is being implemented in 15 districts in the State.

‘At least pay salaries’

Flagging the hardship faced by the staff, he said: “How can we run the family without salary for 20 months now? If the Centre is not sanctioning funds, the State government should at least pay our salaries and adjust with the funds when they come from the Centre.”

A report titled ‘Reversing the Situation of Child Labour - A Rapid Survey in Tamil Nadu’ by Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL) Tamil Nadu & Puducherry, published last year, said child labour had increased nearly 280% among the vulnerable communities.

Child rights activist R. Vidyasagar said reports in India as well as in Tamil Nadu show that the magnitude of child labour is increasing due to COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic that is continuing for almost three years now (very uncertain about the third wave now) has impacted the lives of most people in many ways, he said.

“In this situation NCLP schools assume greater importance to provide bridge courses for the children who have become child workers and to mainstream them back in formal schools,” contended the former child protection specialist with UNICEF.

When contacted, a senior official in the State government said that the NCLP was 100% funded by the Government of India, periodically sanctioning funds. “We have also written to the Centre in this regard three months ago. There were certain issues from our side such as production of audit and utilisation certificates, which we have produced now.”

The State government was following up the issue with the Government of India, he said. “It is under process with the Government of India.” Acknowledging a protest in front of the Commissioner of Labour in this regard last week, the official said: “We have assured them that that we are following it up with the Centre. We hope that the funds would be released shortly.”

Despite multiple attempts, officials in the Union Labour Ministry, Delhi, looking after the NCLP, were not available for a comment.

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Printable version | May 17, 2022 7:57:59 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/rehabilitation-process-of-rescued-child-labourers-hit-for-want-of-funds/article38284513.ece