NEW DELHI: As the world prepares to observe International Day Against Child labour on Friday, here is data that shows that children continued to be victimised as child labour even as the Covid-19 pandemic gained momentum followed by a lockdown. From March to May, Childline – 1098, the national emergency helpline for children in distress carried out 3,653 interventions for child labour across the states. Nearly half of the children rescued were in the age group of 11 to 15 years.
Of these 3653 interventions, 35% (1264) involved children who were begging. A significantly high 21% (763) were engaged in activities categorised as hazardous work, 14% (513) were working in restaurants, 10% (371) as domestic workers, 8% (286) in family units and 4% (156) as bonded labour.
Of the children rescued, 47% (1716) children were in the age group 11 to 15 years, 30% (1087) were between 6 to 10 years, and 10% (357) were below 5 years. Children in the age group of 16 years and above accounted for 12% (436). Data shows that 74% (2696) children involved in child labour were boys and 26% (939) were girls.
Maximum child labour interventions happened in Rajasthan (12%) followed by Telangana and Tamil Nadu at 11% in each state, Karnataka (9%) and Madhya Pradesh (8%).
In March (lockdown came into effect on March 25) interventions related to child labour accounted for 2,473. This number dipped steeply to 446 in April but it again started increasing as lockdown restrictions started easing and touching 734 in May.
Childline officials explain that if one were to go by just the number of interventions (3653) pertaining to child labour then this marks a 62% reduction as compared to the same period last year. However, the numbers for this year are significant and telling as it shows that there have been cases of child labour despite the fact that businesses had been asked to suspend operations during the lockdown.
Officials caution that with the economy opening up, there is a clear indication that the numbers are increasing as well, with an increase of 65% from April to May alone in the number of interventions.
A case study shared by Childline from early May reflects the plight of children. Seven children working as bonded labour were rescued from a ceramic factory in Bikaner. The children were brought from Odisha with the promise of a job and a salary of Rs 10,000 every month. However, at the factory, they were made to work for long hours, were beaten up by the factory in-charge if they refused to work and they were not allowed to contact their families.
Meanwhile, to mark the international day against child labour Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation has highlighted the urgent need for states to step up rescues, registration of cases and reporting of child labour.
KSCF in an analysis of NCRB data from 2016 to 2018 points that all of 1879 victims (2016: 384; 2017: 685 and 2018: 810) were rescued across states under the child labour law. The total number of FIRs over three years adds up to 1130 (2016:204; 2017:462; 2018:464). Moreover, states like Mizoram, Sikkim, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Odisha, Meghalaya, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Andhra Pradhesh did not register a single FIR the child labour law.
It is further shared that very few cases were disposed of by courts as compared to the number of cases that remain pending for trial at the beginning of each year. The conviction rate was 11% in 2016, 70% in 2017 and 44% in 2018.