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Right to life 'at stake' for Gujarat child workers forming 6% of MSME workforce


By Damini Patel*
Ever since the lockdown began, there has been an increase in complaints pertaining to the violation of child rights across the country. As reported, the Childline India has crossed 92,000 calls requesting protection from violence.
Mobility being extremely restricted for all, children have nowhere to go and seek help for protection of their rights – especially within the four walls of home, they are subjected to physical abuse, mental torture and even sexual abuse in several cases.
This is perfectly in tandem with the research evidence that in more than 90% of the cases of child abuse, the child knows the abuser personally and in cases of sexual abuse, it comes generally from the family quarters.
With 472 million children, India has the largest child population in the world and campaigners say the lockdown has impacted around 40 million children from poor families. Everyone during lockdown is asked to be at home, but the grave issue of those children who have No Home¸ where do they go, what happens to them?
These questions are not easy to answer and but are important for the smooth implementation of Right to Education Act as well as the mid-day meal scheme at a time when schools and anganwadis are closed.
As per the Disaster Management Act, provisions of School Safety Plan would need to be implemented, which every school in Gujarat, as elsewhere in the country, is supposed to have developed with UNICEF support. 
Large number of child labourers in Gujarat are migrant child workers. They have limited or no access to accommodation, health, education
However, a rapid on-field survey of schools in Gujarat conducted last week yielded total lack of awareness about school safety plan and school disaster management plan. Gujarat claims to be one of the first states to pilot the School Safety Initiative.
Gujarat ranks 7th with 2,50,318, i.e. 5.75%, child labourers age 6 to 14 years working in micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the country. Forming nearly 6% of the workforce of MSMEs of Gujarat being child labourers, and the lockdown in effect, right to livelihood of children is also at stake.
Even more frightening is the fact that, with the relaxation of the lockdown norms and issuance of guidelines to begin economic operations, ensuring the disinfection of workplace has turned out to be a major issue.
The child of Gujarat does not know whether it is safe for him/her to go to work or remain deprived of right to food. Let us not mention here that this nearly 6% figure is that of identified or known children who are in conflict with the Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act.
A large number of child labourers in Gujarat is migrant child labour. They have very limited or no access to accommodation, health, education and other basic amenities. Being forced to live in unhygienic, crowded, inhuman surroundings along with adult male migrants, their right to personal safety, right to food, right to recreation and right to liberty are all at stake.
Thus, in Gujarat model, what comes to the eye is much less than what exists, with reports of children as young as aged two being infected with COVID-19, stringent actions to protect, promote and secure the rights of children are essential.
Indeed, it is the responsibility of all of us, because today's safe, strong, educated, healthy child depend our future. If we are concerned about the future in our personal lives, then it is our duty to do it for the society and the country.
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*State co-ordinator, Gujarat, Bachpan Bachao Andolan

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