Bitter Truth of the Society | Stories of Horror and Child Labour in Jammu

Unemployment and poverty are the biggest concerns for a developing economy like India as the struggle is taxing for the government as well as the people facing it. Besides, the labour challenge, child labour is the harshest truth of today's society. Child labour refers to the exploitation of children through any form of work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, and is mentally, physically, socially or morally harmful. It is worrying to witness lakhs of children working in various sectors owing to poverty and lack of education. According to the latest available census (2011), there were 10.1 million child workers under the age of 14-with significant disparities across states.

In Jammu and Kashmir, there is a great chunk of child labour which goes unnoticed at dhabas, in factories, restaurants, automobile workshops, brick kilns, agriculture and as domestic help in homes.

According to UNICEF, child labor in India has merely shifted from factories to employee homes and children are still engaged in harmful industries such as bidi production and fireworks production. This shift to informal home-based sectors makes it harder to detect child labour.

Jammu Links News team approached Child Welfare Committee to understand the working of the committee alongwith Labour department in this regard. The team spoke to Shalini Sharma, Chairperson Child Welfare Committee Jammu regarding the child labour and their rehabilitation process.

She said, "The department deals with a couple of issues which include child labour, POCSO cases, Child marriage, corporal punishment, Family disputes etc. The CWC takes care of Children in Need of Care and Protection (CNCP) while Child in Conflict with Law (CCL) are handledby Juvenile Justice Boards (JJB)."

Till date, 58 cases have been sponsored by the Committee to provide a better future to the children. In each district of the State, 58 cases were identified and sponsored by their respective CWCs. Particularly in Jammu region, till date 212 cases are handled by CWC which fell under the category of "Children in Need of Care and Protection" since inception.

Heart-rending stories of struggle came to the forefront.  Cases ranging from people fighting for the custody of a child due to property disputes to kids becoming the breadwinners for the family.

One of the officials of Department of Labour & Employment told that on many occasions, the child working in restaurants or at homes is informed a bit ahead of raids and they end up leaving the place and flee. Or if, they're caught by the authorities, they cry bitterly stating that this job is the only means of livelihood for their families.

In one such incident, authorities caught Suresh(name changed) who was working at a dhaba. As soon as the team reached the dhaba and started questioning him, he started crying and ran towards his employer seeking help. On convincing, he agreed to talk and then narrated the condition of his family. Suresh had a blind mother, a handicapped father and three younger siblings. He insisted the officials to visit his home and understand how this job is helping him to run his family.As labour department officials describe it, the condition was dreadful.

Another incident was narrated by Shalini Sharma, Chairperson CWC Jammu. She told that their team found a really malnourished girl under Jammu Tawi Bridge and after further investigation; it was found that her mother was mentally challenged. So, the CWC fought for the custody of the child and she was provided with shelter. Besides, a monthly allowance for her nutrition was also set due to which, the child gained health and now, she's a healthy girl with a future holding endless possibilities.

One more case came to notice in which a mother alongwith 4 kids was working near Gummat area and the CWC convinced the mother to handover the children so that they can be provided with education and help but being a mother, she did not agree at all. So, the younger kids were somehow exposed to the rehabilitation process and they agreed to stay in shelter homes where they're provided with food as well as quality education. And now, after realizing the potential of education, they do not even want to return home.

Time and again, Child Welfare Committe organises awareness campaigns on various occasions to aware people and also to rescue the child.

Multiple such cases surfaced to the top which were related to Children in Need of Care and Protection (CNCP) and the authorities are truly committed to bring a change with one case at a time. Although, child labour, is not a problem unique to Jammu and Kashmir or India still a small step can go a long way to change society. According to data from the World Bank, there are 168 million children employed across the world.

The problem of child labour particularly can be tackled with better enforcement of laws, increasing awareness and strengthening education systems. As of now, India contributes 6% of child labour, but in terms of proportion, it has the lowest rates of such cases in South Asia. In the region, Nepal has the highest child labour rate i.e., 42%. Time and again, the International Labour Organization and UNICEF recommend multi-pronged strategies which are required to be implemented in letter and spirit for a better future.

Images sourced online and are used for purely representational purposes


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Hardeep Bali