Child labour is a blot on the face of a progressive society. Team Gonda has come out with an initiative for rehabilitating the rescued child labourers, Sarvodaya Yojana
Life of Shadaab Khan (14), a child labour at the shop of a readymade garment, changed overnight. From 11 hours a day, tedious duty at the shop to admission in school, nutritious food, decent clothes and tuition for studies. This was made possible by a small initiative of Team Gonda which came out with a unique scheme under which child labours rescued from the clutches of their employers are adopted by district officials for their rehabilitation.
This idea was floated at a brainstorming session of the District labour committee meeting. “Once rescued, rehabilitation of child labours is the biggest challenge as majority of them return to their petty works again. “During the meeting an officer threw the idea of their adoption by district officials. The idea caught everyone’s attention and was discussed threadbare and we agreed to work out its modalities,” says Gonda’s District Magistrate, Ashutosh Niranjan.
A study conducted by Campaign against Child Labour (CAC) reveals that there are about 1.26 crore child labours in the country and Uttar Pradesh accounted for the highest number 20 per cent (19.27 lakhs). The menace is not only prevalent in rural areas where children work in fields and hazardous factories but also in urban areas where they are engaged as domestic servants, shops, garages, restaurants and other odd jobs since they come ‘cheap’.
The main aim of the scheme, which was named as Sarvodaya Yojana, is rehabilitation of rescued child labours and improve social and economic conditions of their families so that the child goes to the school and the family becomes a part of the mainstream society, claims Shameem Akhtar, Deputy Labour Commissioner of Devipatan Mandal.
After their rescue, officers, individuals and NGOs are identified for their adoption. A pilot project was launched under which nine child labours were rescued and all of them were legally adopted by the officers working under Team Gonda. The first child labour Shadaab (14) was adopted by the DM of Gonda, Ashutosh Niranjan himself.
Significantly, Gonda has also been a karmabhoomi of Nobel Laureate Kailsah Satyarthi who had rescued many child labours in the district and those working in circus at tender age. During one such operation, he was severely injured when goons of a circus had roughed him up.
“The DM saheb and his wife were very generous and courteous when they called Shadaab and us for a lunch at their residence. My son was given sumptuous food, new clothes, books and cycle for going to a tutor to prepare him for admission in a good school from this session,” says Saafiya, mother of Shadaab who has never been to school.
Most of these families are poor and illiterate and have no means to send their wards to school. Instead, children are forced to take up petty jobs once they cross over the tender age of 10 for the livelihood of their families. Inspired by the DM’s wife Dr Neha Singh, Shadaab too wants to become a doctor to serve people in his village. “I will study hard to become a doctor,” says Shadaab. “We have a daughter and now she has a brother too,” says Dr Neha Singh.
The DM tells that they have also developed a software to prepare e-database and monitor the progress of adopted child labourers. Their records of education, growth and health parameters would be monitored every quarter to ensure over-all development of the adopted children. To make adoption legally tenable, it was linked to the posts of officers so that studies of children remains unaffected even if they are transferred. “It was a humble beginning but was appreciated by all since it involved a complete rehabilitation package of child labourers and their families without putting any financial burden on the state exchequer. The state government has also lauded Team Gonda’s efforts and assured of all support,“ claims Niranjan. The initiative by a DM and his team has caught the attention of others also. Many DMs of other district have also sent their labour officers to study and replicate Sarvodaya Yojana in their districts.
“We are presenting a paper at the National Labour Meet in Bhopal on Sarvodaya Yojana and will also make a presentation to the Union Labour Ministry requesting Centre and other states to replicate it all over the country,” claims the Labour Commissioner R.P. Tiwari.
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