It may be fun for children in the cities to light up a phooljadi or Anaar but it’s certainly not fun for those children who are forced into child labour and help make crackers.
The young children may have been promised freedom from work–legally, but a reality check reveals that there are no measures in place to ensure that they make a smooth transition from work to school and play.
Eight-year-old Saif was till recently a working child. The police brought him to a shelter home in the capital where he will stay till he is restored to his family.
For the first time, however, Saif is receiving non-formal education here and he says he wants to continue studying.
“I don’t want to go home, will learn and study here,” said Saif.
Home for Saif is a remote village in UP where he has no access to quality education.
Many child labour face a similar situation and activists say the biggest challenge is whether children who have been taken out of work will be in school.
“We have to make arrangements for these children to be sent back to a school or have a transition in non-formal education or some cases for a small percentage. You might have to find a residential facility or some sort of a shelter for care and education,” said Gerry Pinto, Specialist, Child Rights & Child Protection.
Experts say the total lack of inter-state and inter-agency coordination is responsible for the government’s failure in rehabilitating child labour.
For instance, child labour is considered the responsibility of the labour department alone.
There is no involvement of the education department in the rehabilitation process.
“If we rescue a small child how can we help without help from the education department. The solution is in the effective coordination of all the departments. There is no issue in repatriating a child, you keep him for two or three days and then send him back home but whichever state you send the child back to there should be an assurance that the child will be a part of schooling system,” said Ashok Agarwal, Advocate, Delhi HC.
“The children we rescued told us that they want to go to school and won’t go back to work,” he added.
The question is what should these children do. If they want to study, there are no schools. If there are schools, then there are no teachers and no infrastructure.
Clearly without improving the state of government schools, the repatriation of child labour will not ensure their rehabilitation and social integration.