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India's mining children 'neglected' by govt, human rights activists alike

By Our Representative
Two important voluntary organizations, working in several of the mining areas of India, have expressed serious concern that the so-called “mining children” in the country are actually “nobody’s children”. In a sharp critique, these organizations have said, while the Government of India has not allocated the task of looking after mining children to any specific ministry or department, the NGOs working in the mining areas too have neglected their rights.
An eight-page commentary, distributed by the two organizations, HAQ: Centre for Child Rights and Samata, during the release of a film on mining children in Delhi, said, “The ministry or department that mines does not look after children, and those ministries or departments that look after children, such as Departments or Ministries of Social Welfare, Labour, Women and Child Development, Education, Tribal Welfare do not have mining areas on their radar.”
The commentary adds, “So invariably, children in these areas fall between the cracks”, pointing out, this is happening at a time when India’s richest mining areas are also prone to “high dropout rates from school” and “vulnerability to sexual exploitation and trafficking.”
“What is more”, the commentary insists, “same kind of gap exists between human rights activists and civil society groups as well. Those who work on land rights and mining issues seldom see and therefore highlight the issues concerning children. Similarly, those working on child rights seldom see the impact mining is having on children.”
The documentary film released on the occasion, “Falling through the Cracks: Children in Mining”, has been shot in stone mines of Panna, Madhya Pradesh, one of the rare places where diamond is mined, and Chitrakoot and Shankargarh in Uttar Pradesh. It was released at the India International centre on March 16, 2015 and by Joachim Theis, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF India.
During the film release ceremony, which took place in Delhi, its director, Shibani Chaudhury of NGO Sruti, said, she decided to make the film after she was “moved” by the appalling conditions that the children in the mining areas.
“Despite the United Nations Convention on the rights of children and the various laws ensuring the rights of children there was still this gaping hole that needed immediate attention”, she underlined.
The film, which is based on interviews with mining children and their parents in Panna, highlights that India has a lot of laws, policies and programmes for children, but the mining children are unable to benefit from them. Very few laws provide any protection or relief to mining children in particular or address their specific situation created as a result of living and even working in mining.
The film followed a field research -- India’s Childhood in the “Pits”- A Report on the Impacts of Mining on Children in India – conducted in the year 2010, first of its kind, carried out in eight states - Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
HAQ and Samata have been working with communities, academicians, lawyers and organizations and others at the grassroots levels in these states on issues related to mining and children.
The film acquires significance, says the commentary, as there has been a 29 per cent cut in the Union Budget for children this year. “It now stands at an abysmal 3 per cent of the entire budget”, said one of those involved in making the film, Enakshi Ganguly.
“All flagship programmes of the government like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Midday Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), and health related schemes, as well as allocations to the key ministries that implement them, stand severely cut,” she added. 

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