TAMIL NADU

Chennai awarded child labour project

CHENNAI DEC. 24. Chennai has been awarded the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) that seeks to eliminate child from being a part of the workforce. This followed another recommendation made by the State Government to grant the NCLP to the city. Chennai ranks fourth among all districts in the prevalence of child labour with 4,799 child labourers, according to the latest survey conducted by the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan.

``Child Labour is increasingly becoming an urban phenomenon. The very poor here are unable to cope with the pressures of the city and are sending their children to work for longer hours,'' says a Chennai Corporation official.

Most of these children are employed as mechanics in automobile shops, coolies in construction sites, staff in eating establishments in manual labour and as domestic workers. They live in slum tenements near Tondiarpet, Vyasarpadi, Perambur, Triplicane and Nugambakkam.

A result of poverty is the high dropout rate in city schools. More than 16,000 children in the age group of 5-16 drop out of school every year, says the official. At least 6,660 children in the school-going age never enrol in schools.

It is for this reason that the NCLP in Chennai will stress education of children. More bridge courses and transit schools will be opened in Chennai to improve enrolment into `regular schools,' says the official. At present, the Chennai Corporation conducts 93 bridge courses for over 2,000 children.

``A survey of all children living in construction sites will be conducted and those below eight years will be enrolled in transit and bridge schools.''

Parents of these children will be counselled on the importance of education. To maintain a steady family income when the child is pulled away from work and put into school, the Corporation proposes to assist the family members in setting up self-employment ventures.

``We need to support the parents if we want to root out the problem of child labour,'' says the official.

Once NCLP takes off in the city, a clause prohibiting the use of child labour in all tender conditions will be added, says the official. Already, contracts drawn by the Public Works department and the Highways department prohibit child labour.

It is for the second time that the State Government has written to the Central Ministry requesting that Chennai be awarded the NCLP. Earlier this year, the Labour department recommended Chennai, Erode, Dindigul and Theni for the NCLP because of the high prevalence of child labour.

While Erode was awarded the project, the others were overlooked. Instead, Cuddalore, with only 95 child labourers was awarded the NCLP, much to the surprise of labour inspector officials and social workers.

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