Shri. R K Sharma, IAS
Labour and Employees State Insurance Department
Government of Odisha
Sub: Combating child Labour as a matter of priority in Odisha
The Commission takes note of the growing concern over the engagement of children in various occupations. Such engagements are more prevalent and severe in many urban areas, mines and in case of migrant children. In the year 2006-2007, the State Action Plan/Blue Print prepared by Dr. Laxmidhar Mishra and submitted to Government of Odisha in consultation with various civil society organisations. Apart from this, various structure and systems such as, District level Taskforce, Child Labour Welfare- cum- Rehabilitation Society, District Child Labour and Welfare Fund etc. are created to address the issue. In spite of all these mechanism, child labour are visible in all most all parts of the state in various occupations and processes.
Considering the issue, the state must take immediate steps to finalise the action plan with appropriate modifications to address the issue in a time bound manner.
Please find herewith the recommendations on the issue for your information and necessary action. The recommendations are based on the review of literatures and consultation with various stakeholders in the state.
We appreciate an Action Taken Report (ATR) from your end with in three-month period of time.
Combating child Labour as a matter of priority in Odisha
1. The Commission takes note of the growing concern over the engagement of children in various occupations. Such engagement, though more prevalent and severe in many urban areas, mines and in case of migrant children.In the year 2006-2007, the State Action Plan/Blue Print prepared by Dr. Laxmidhar Mishra and submitted to Government of Odisha in consultation with various civil society organisations. Apart from this, various structure and systems such as, District level Taskforce, Child Labour Welfare- cum- Rehabilitation Society, District Child Labour and Welfare Fund etc. are created to address the issue. In spite of all these mechanism, child labours are visible in all most all parts of the state in various occupations and processes. The state must take immediate steps to finalise the action plan with appropriate modifications.
2. Number of Child labour in various sectors is always a debatable matter. Data provided by Labour department and children not going to school or dropout are mismatch always. There is a strong link between child labour and children not in school. All dropout children are potential child labour. In education department, there is no clear-cut definition on dropout; as a result any child once enrolled is considered as children in school. There is an immediate need that, both the department works hand in hand to identify the children and take proper rehabilitation measures. District Child Protection Unit set up by Women and Child Development Department in all districts can play a key role in the matter.
3. The Commission further notes the complexity of this issue, and the importance of taking this complexity into account when framing policy responses. Priority should be given to put an immediate end to the most intolerable forms of child labour, Child Migration, beggary, practices of forced or compulsory Labour, and their employment in any type of work that is likely to jeopardies their health, safety, or growth. There must be a special protection for girls and a total prohibition of work by the children.
4. In our society, poverty and social exclusion are among the main causes of child labour. There is a corresponding need for a state-specific approach in order to address these problems effectively. There is a need to endorse explicitly the objectives of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 138 of 1973 concerning the Minimum Age for Admission to Employment, in order to abolish effectively child labour and to raise progressively the minimum age for admission to employment or work to a level consistent with the full physical and mental development of young persons.
5. Education has an important role in both the promotion and the prevention of child labour. Inaccessible or inappropriate education may push children into the workplace prematurely. Conversely, education, which provides skills for future employment, will encourage children to remain in school and so reduce more severe forms of exploitation. Many children combine school and work in spite of the difficulties involved. There is a need to provide relevant and flexible education for these working children. All children should benefit from free and appropriate education, which, inter alia, would enable them to gain productive employment later in life.
6. Advocacy has a crucial long-term role to play in raising awareness about child labour. The problem is often hidden and unrecognized, to the extent that the public may believe that the problem no longer exists. Trade unions, the media and non-governmental organizations have an important function in identifying and bringing the problems to various statutory bodies. In this way the statutory bodies meant for address the grievance of such children will be strengthened.
7. Child labour in the state is inadequately documented. A first step must be to properly define the priority issues of child labour in each district/region and to identify the priority problems for action through proper appraisal. The DCPU together with Labour officers has to offers expertise in rapid appraisal methodology for such assessments, which could form the first step in dealing with child labour
8. Where hazardous categories of child labour have been identified, plans of action to eliminate them are needed, through an integrated strategy of prevention, regulation and rehabilitation. Through its work on child protection and child rights, DCPU has acquired the necessary experience and the capacity to intervene. Resource available with DCPU is also need to be leverage in addressing the issue.
9.Accordingly the Commission recommends that the Government must take following action immediately by:
i. adopting a clear policy and time-bound programme of action for that purpose, which should be comprehensive, coherent and coordinated, interdisciplinary and preventive, and by allocating the necessary resources to it;
ii. undertake a rapid assessment and mapping of children engaged in various sectors involving all key stakeholders in the state and develop concrete action plan on timely eradication. An urban deprivation strategy need to be adopted as in most of the urban setup child labour is visible.
iii. improving the monitoring system at district and state level. Instead of heaving different committees in state level a single committee headed by Labour Secretary is recommended. In the district level a taskforce will handle all rescue and rehabilitation work in collaboration with other line departments. The labour departments must bring a comprehensive guideline on this matter.
iv. reviewingthe existing legislations, directions to better enforce the protection of children. In the state there are couple of departments are dealing with children’s issues. A system must developed to address the issue more systematic way.
v. undertaking systematic and action-oriented research on certain areas ( Child beggary, Children in Mining sector, status of children conflict zone and refugee children status) and adopt a regional, issue centric strategy;
vi. an active involvement of all interested partners, such as trade unions, employers, non-governmental organisations, the children themselves and their parents at the time of any policy formulations;
vii. raising awareness in society as a whole of the impact of premature child work and by educating consumers to consider basic labour rights when buying products.