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Cabinet approves action plan on child labour in Bihar

By Aditya Malaviya

PATNA, Bihar 6 July 2009
- Efforts to address issues of child labour systematically in Bihar has received a major boost with the Government of Bihar approving the State Plan of Action Elimination, Release and Rehabilitation of Child Labour. This is a significant development reflecting the political will of the Government of Bihar in tackling this deep rooted issue.

The state Action Plan was developed by the Labour Resources Department (LRD) with the active support of UNICEF Bihar. The LRD and UNICEF Bihar facilitated a series of consultations from 2007 through 2008 involving participation from a range of stakeholders including Government departments, trade unions, civil society organizations and NGOs.

With Bihar accounting for 8.9 per cent of the child labour in India in the 5 to 14 age group (Census, 2001), the state faces the challenge of getting its children into school, not work. The total number of children working for more than six months is about 0.54 million, while children who work for less than 6 months is approximately 0.58 million (Census 2001).

State wise distribution of child labour population in this age group shows that Uttar Pradesh (0.19 crore) has the highest child labour population in the country, followed by Andhra Pradesh (0.14 crore), Rajasthan (0.13 crore) and Bihar (0.10 crore) (Census 2001). Children working as child labour are often subjected to physical punishment and suffer from a high incidence of malnutrition, vitamin deficiency, and other diseases.

They have no time for either leisure or education – most have never had the opportunity to go to school.

The State Action Plan: A Glimpse

Very comprehensive in nature, the state Action Plan proposes specific actions for prevention, enforcement of child labour prohibition and regulation Act 1986, restoration of children rescued from child labour and their rehabilitation.

Constitution of Task Forces at state, district and panchayat level is one of the most crucial action points of the plan. The effective implementation of the action plan hinges on convergence of various schemes and services by the Government. The action plan also creates greater space for enhanced coordination between the Government and other Civil Society organizations.

Labour Resources Department in Bihar has already constituted District Level Task Forces on Child Labour in all the 38 districts. The department has also budget allocations for the functioning of these task forces. The Task Forces consist of Labour officials, police and NGO representatives. With the support of UNICEF, the department also conducted a campaign early this year named ‘Chutti – Bal Shram Se’. The approval of the Action plan by the cabinet should lead to acceleration of efforts such as those mentioned above.

Action plans envisages task force to monitor implementation

The State Action Plan envisages the setting up of a state-level task force under the Chief Secretary, with Development Commissioner and Secretaries if Finance, Planning, Home, Law , Labour, Rural Development, HRD, Revenue and Land Reforms, Social Welfare, SC & ST Welfare, Food and Civil Supplies, Urban Development, Health and Panchayati Raj as members.

The task force will monitor the implementation of the plan of action, suggest measures for release and rehabilitation of child labour, and address poverty-related socio-economic issues of their families. A similar task force will be constituted in every district under the District Magistrate’s (DM) and Superintendent of Police (SP) by involving other sub-divisional and district officials.

Bihar has decided to make an all-out effort to try and correct the problem at all levels. But there is also a realization that while India has a large number of NGO’s working for children and fighting against child exploitation, it is too complex a problem to be solved by any single entity.

This problem needs to be looked at and tackled from a variety of fronts and requires a lot of time and effort, but with everyone’s involvement, it can be fixed. And then, finally, these children can just go back to being children again. Communications Specialist UNICEF Office for Bihar



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