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CHENNAI: India has 43.5 lakh labourers in the age group of 5 to 14 years, according to the 2011 census. Uttar Pradesh has the maximum number of child workers with nearly 9 lakh and a majority of them are in the rural areas. This is followed by Maharashtra with close to 5 lakh.
Compared to the 2001 census, there is a drop of 65% in the number of workers in this age group. In the last census, there were 1.3 crore children aged 5 to 14 working fulltime in various factories, shops and establishments. A combination of efforts by governments through various legislations, judicial intervention and also by various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) seems to have brought down the number of child labourers in the country. The 2009-10 NSSO survey estimated that there were 49.8 lakh child labourers.
Most of the child labour in UP, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh is in rural areas. Of the 9 lakh children employed in UP, about 7 lakh work in rural areas. Similarly, in Rajasthan, of the 2.5 lakh child labourers, 2.1 lakh are in rural areas. Across the country, there are 32.7 lakh children working in rural areas compared to 10.8 lakh in urban areas.
"Though the number of children employed has come down since the last census, states like UP, Bihar should announce incentives to woo children to schools. Tamil Nadu is a classic example, where the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan has improved the enrolment due to provision of mid-day meals. Other states should also implement similar schemes to increase enrolment in schools," Unicef child protection specialist R Vidyasagar told TOI.
The focus should be not just weaning away children from employment, the government schemes should provide incentives to parents to compensate the loss of revenue after the child is enrolled in schools, said Vidyasagar.
Children in UP are employed in the carpet and textile industries as well as domestic help in cities. "Many children are employed in carpet and textile industries in the state. We have adopted 200 villages in the state and have successfully weaned away children from these industries," said Lenin Raghuvanshi, executive director, Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) involved in Varanasi and nearby districts. Campaign and boycott of goods made by Indian children across the world has also lent a sense of urgency to tackling the social evil.
"States which have more children in employment should set up taskforces as done in Delhi. In many northern states, there is lack of will to implement various laws to prevent employment of children in harzardous industries," said Varun Pathak of Justice Ventures International. "In Delhi, many bureaucrats and affluent people employ children from Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal as domestic help. Only stringent laws can prevent this," said Pathak.
Courtesy- Times of India