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Rights groups' demand unifomity in rules against child labour

Several child rights organisations demanded amendments to Article 24 of the Constitution to do away with contradictions in the implementation of rules against child labour in the country.

"Schedule 5 of the article allows employment of child labours in non-hazardous sectors like agriculture, while Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act banned children under-14 from working as domestic servants in dhabas, restaurants, hotels and hospitality sectors," speakers from different child rights organisations said here at a programme.

"The crux of the problem was that the Act did not apply to child labour in agriculture or bidi industry," said Partha Roy, state advisor to National Commission for Protection of Child Rights on the eve of World Anti-Child Labour Day during a programme organised by international NGO, 'Save the Children'.

He lamented that state commissions for protection of child rights were not set up in many states, including in West Bengal.

These commissions which would have the same power as the state commissions for human rights, has come up only in six states including Bihar and Orissa, he said.

"The Right to Education, enacted in 2010 as a fundamental right too needed to be reviewed," said Prabir Basu, National Convenor of Campaign Against Child Labour.

Provisions of free and compulsory education should be incorporated in the Act to ensure that no children from poor backgrounds were required to pay any money for their admission to schools under the 'Sarva Siksha Abhiyan', he said.

The authorities need to take note that children require full time school to make any difference in their lives and there could be no non-hazardous work for children as any kind of labour was bound to affect a child's mental and physical development, Basu said.

As per the Act, the government was required to notify children's court to speed up cases of violation of their rights but nothing has been done so far in the state, he said.

'Save the Children' advocacy coordinator Chitta Priya Sadhu said despite the Centre's instructions to states to develop action plans to rescue and rehabilitate children working as child labourers, very few had actually done so.

"In West Bengal, an estimated 7 lakh children in the age group of 6-14 years are out of schools, with the percentage of boys being more than girls," he said.

Also about 66 per cent of the primary schools do not conform to the pupil-teacher ratio as per the Right to Education norms.

"The number of child labourers in the state as per a sample National Sample Survey Organisation was 8.57 lakh in 2007. In the country the figure was 1.7 crore," he said.

The International Labour Organisation's recent global estimates put the number of children involved in hazardous work at a staggering 115 million, Sadhu added.

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