RTI (Right to information) filed by Bachapan Bachao Andolan (BBA) has brought to light the fact that not even a single district out of 13 of the State has released rehabilitation fund for the rescued bonded child labourers in the State. As per the information received under the Act, in view of the huge number of the bonded child labourers in the State, the number of FIRs filed is very small.
As per the law, once an FIR is filed in connection with any bonded child labour case, the child must be rescued and a rehabilitation sum of Rs 20,000 must be given to each of such child. Besides, their pending wages must be cleared. According to the data by the census 2017-18, there are around 28,098 bonded child labourers in the State and just seven FIRs have been registered according to the data released by State Crime Record Bureau (SCRB). What is more, the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) has no data of the bonded child labourers after 2013.
The report further highlights the mismanagement by the appointed officials in several districts.
It is learnt that in 2017-18, five bonded child labourers were marked in Nainital out of which FIR was filed in three cases and no rehabilitation sum was released to the rescued children. The RTI reply further states that though there is around an amount of Rs 5, 10,000 kept aside in the child labour rehabilitation fund in Nainital not even a single penny has been released to help the rescued children.
Giving more details, the assistant project officer BBA Dehradun Sandeep Pant said, “There have been cases when we have rescued bonded child labourers. But this is just the first step and the second step is to file FIR. Pushing the matter to the stage of filing the FIR is a very tough task. We have asked through RTI about the extent to which the district magistrates or other officials are involved in the bonded child labourer rescue programmes.
We are under the impression that their role in the crucial programme is very limited. Things are very grim as we hardly receive any help from the officials when we rescue bonded children. Things do not move as far as their rehabilitation is concerned with the fund meant for it. Their wages are not even cleared. The result is that such children are forced to lead the same life even after they are rescued,” he added.
Talking to The Pioneer, the chairperson of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) Usha Negi said, “Our basic task is to monitor the current condition at the ground level and to involve as many officers as possible. Our district has a task force which is active in rescuing children. We are also trying our best to involve other departments like police and child welfare committees in the programme so that such children can lead a healthy life.”
She further said, “Our commission has released rehabilitation money in many districts. For example, in Tehri district, 78 children have been provided with some amount of money while just 20 children in the city have been given the money from the fund in 2018. This way we are trying to give compensation to as many children as possible. We are also trying to have their wages cleared.”
Quizzed over the main reason behind the abysmal failure in releasing the fund, Negi said, “There are officials who do not want to show that our State has any such problem like bonded child labour. However, covering up things would not help. What is needed is sincere initiatives to rid the State of the problem from its roots.”