Action plan to eliminate child labour extended till 2012

Shankar Bennur

MYSORE: Karnataka has to wait for five more years to become child labour-free as promised by the State Government in 2001. It had announced to eliminate child labour by 2007 by launching a six-year action plan.

Official sources told The Hindu that the action plan had now been extended till 2012. Perhaps, the efforts made under the plan had not made the “anticipated impact” and therefore the new target had been set.

According to the Labour Department, the number of “out-of-school” children in Karnataka was 26 lakh in 1991. But a recent survey conducted by the Department of Public Instruction revealed that the number of “out-of-school” children, aged between six and 14, was 10.53 lakh. “Hence, the number of child labour might have come down,” the department said.

Though the number of child labour has come down in recent years, it is not as anticipated since more children, who are below 14 years, were being pushed to work, depriving them of education.

The child labour percentage to child population, according to the census conducted in 1991, is 8.7 in Karnataka, which comes up to 9.76 lakh.

Though the latest figures of child labour were not available, official sources stated that the number was on the decline, but not as expected. But a survey, according to the Labour Department, conducted in 1997 revealed that there were 40,529 children working in manufacturing and other units in the State.

Considering the magnitude of child labour in the State, the Government approved an action plan in 2001 to eliminate the menace and it was officially launched on May 31, 2005. Karnataka was said to be the first State to take up a comprehensive action plan for elimination of child labour with provisions in the budget for rehabilitation centres with residential facilities and education. Sources in the department said the action plan had been extended with the Government recognising child labour in hotels and domestic sectors under the hazardous category. A notification in this regard was issued on October 10, 2006.

Though the aim of the action plan was to identify through survey, release and rehabilitate working children below the age of 14 in hazardous and non-hazardous sectors, it focused on opening special residential schools-cum-rehabilitation centres in all districts to rehabilitate the rescued children. Each centre will have 50 students and the expenditure is being met by the State.

The existing 190 special schools under the National Child Labour Programme (NCLP) were also converted into special residential schools-cum-rehabilitation centres in Bijapur, Gadag, Haveri, Dharwad, Raichur, Bangalore Rural and Bangalore Urban districts. The department has plans to rehabilitate 50,000 working children in six years.

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