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West Bengal Dalit child workers 'trapped' in hazardous job to run family: Complaint filed

Counterview Desk 

Human rights leader Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manbadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), writes to the district magistrate, North 24 Parganas, West Bengal, on how three Dalit children are being forced to take up hazardous job to run family, losing childhood and education, asking the official to take urgent action.

Text:

I want to bring your immediate attention to a case of child labor in your district where three children have been forced to work under harsh conditions, compromising their formative period, due to the harsh economic conditions of their families. I will provide you with the details of these three children, and hope that you will take necessary steps to provide them with the childhood they deserve with the scope of all round development.
The three children, belonging to marginalised Scheduled Caste (Dalit), living in perilous situation are Master Mithu Das, aged 14, S/o Late Mr. Ananda Das, Master Ayan Das, aged 12 years, S/o Mr. Chitta Das and Master Rajesh Das, aged 16 years, S/o Mr. Rabin Das. All of these three children are residents of Jhaudanga village of Gaighata Block in the district of North 24 Parganas.

The case of Master Mithu Das

Master Mithu Das is a child of 15 years of age, who lost his father when he was 12 years of age. Earlier he used to attend schooling at the Jhaudanga High School, and he went there up to his 9th Standard. He began working in a brick field after his father’s demise to sustain the economy of his family. And now, he dropped out of school and is working as a full time worker in a brick field. He earns around Rs. 2500 from the work and that is the sole income to sustain the family of three.

The case of Master Ayan Das

The case of Master Ayan Das too, is somewhat similar. He is attending school at Jhaudanga High School irregularly as he joined the brick field as one of the workers. He earns meager 2500 rs. Per month, this brings about essential sustenance to the family of four. Though he still attends school, but at a terrible mental and physical cost. He goes to work in the early morning shift up to 10 am in the morning, and also on the school holidays, which is severely affecting his developmental prospects. The situation may potentially lead to another drop out.

The case of Master Rajesh Das

Master Rajesh Das dropped out of Jhaudanga high school while he was studying in class X. The financial difficulties of the family have forced him to choose the life of a brick field worker instead of going to school. Now his income of Rs. 3000 per month helps the family to hang in there.
These were the details of these three children. Now we want to raise a few points before you in order to clarify the situation.
  1. As per the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986, clearly states that any Child if found to be employed in hazardous works ( Such as Brick fields), the employer can be punished as per the law.
  2. Though several welfare schemes of both central and State governments are in place, the children in question are not getting the expected benefit of those.
  3. Through several government schemes such as MGNREGA etc., are in place to provide people with jobs and financially empower them, the families of these children like many others are not getting the benefit, thus the Children have to take up the mantle of being the bread-winner for the family.
Thus, due to the cumulative effect of government negligence, the interest of brick field owners to employ the children as cheap labor and extreme poverty is destroying the childhood of these children. We must remember that this is not just another legal issue. The punishment of the owners who are employing the children is required, and we too, request you to see through it, and set an example. But, along with that we request you to treat the matter as a socio-economic issue. We will request to take up inter-departmental efforts to mainstream these children back to the life they deserve. The economic stabilization of the families of these children constitutes a large part of the resolution of this problem, thus I implore you to get to the other necessary administrative authorities as well to figure out a solution.
Here we must mention that the agony of these children also violates Articles 21A, 24, 46 of Indian Constitutions. It also violates the International Convention on the Rights of Child, where India is a party. Thus as government officials, it is your responsibility to see that these principles are adhered to.
On the final note, I want to remind you that there is an appointed district child protection officer, whose responsibility is to “Monitor the implementation of the plan. Identify families at risk and children in need of care and protection through effective networking and linkages with the ICDS functionaries, Specialized Adoption Agencies (SAA), NGOs dealing with child protection issues and local bodies, viz.”. I also implore you to oversee if proper actions are being taken by him or not.
Thus, I demand that fruitful steps must be taken by you to resolve the situation immediately. The children must be rehabilitated immediately to ensure they can finish their education.
Further I request you to look into a few suggestions which can help to eliminate the situations out of which the child labor comes out:
  • Ensure the families of child labour be protected from hunger.
  • Ensure implementation of child welfare schemes in your district.
  • Ensure implementation of Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 in your district.
  • Ensure the people get their rightful job under MGNREGA, and become financially empowered.
  • Strengthen the monitoring mechanism to stop children from being employed at hazardous jobs.
  • Accumulate and maintain a register of students with the help of PRIs to keep a track of possible drop outs.
I am at your disposal, in case you need any further help regarding the matter. I hope you will take steps and the responsibility to resolve the issue at the earliest.

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