Home India News Child labour prevails in northeast, but not in official data

Child labour prevails in northeast, but not in official data

By Azera Rahman, IANS,

New Delhi : Even though activists say it is easy to spot children scrubbing pots and pans and doing other work at streetside restaurants in the northeast – like in the rest of the country – the labour ministry data paints a shockingly different picture.

Following queries filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), an NGO working on child rights, ministry data revealed negligible incidence of child labour in the region.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the number of inspections carried out from October 2006 to April 2008 was just nine, in which six cases of violation were detected. However, there were no figures on the number of prosecutions filed or rescued children rehabilitated.

“In Manipur, Sikkim and Meghalaya, 39, 60 and 24 inspections were carried out respectively in the 19 months, according to the documents. However, the rest of the information – on the violations et al – had been left blank. Does this mean that there are no children employed in dhabas and restaurants in these states?” asks Bhuwan Ribhu, a lawyer and national secretary of BBA.

Two years ago, on Oct 10, 2006, the government banned the employment of children as domestic helps and in streetside restaurants. Violators can be jailed for up to two years and fined Rs.20,000.

However, to queries filed under RTI by BBA, the labour ministry said a mere 8,105 violations of the ban were detected across the country between October 2006 and April 2008.

“Children working in ‘dhabas’ anywhere in the country is rampant. Despite that if this is what the officials have to say about the number of child workers in the country then it just reflects their mindset – of refusing to take it as a serious crime.”

For some northeastern states like Mizoram and Nagaland, all the space for information on inspections carried out, violations detected, prosecutions filed or children rehabilitated had been left blank.

Sangeeta Borah, an activist working on child rights in Assam, said: “These figures hardly indicate the real picture. Children continue to work in small restaurants on the roads and as domestic helps everywhere.

“What the figures state is hardly uplifting, it’s scary. It indicates negligence to the problem which will only encourage the crime instead of eliminating it.”

Assam is the lone northeastern state where, according to the document, a prosecution has been filed. In 19 months, 1,261 inspections were carried out, of which 46 violations were detected.

Forty-five rescued children were sent back to their parents’ homes.

Highly dissatisfied at the response and the discrepancies in the figures, the BBA is planning to file an appeal with the labour ministry.

“We will soon file an appeal as we feel there are several discrepancies in the data given to us. We had four definite queries: the number of child labourers statewise, number of rescued children, number of employers prosecuted and the kids rehabilitated. However, the figures given are very misleading and confusing,” Ribhu said.

“At this rate, child labour will never be eliminated from our society. It is time we started treating it as a serious crime,” he added.